The Other Side Of Servant Leadership – Slave

Ken Blanchard recently wrote an article about servant leadership, saying:

I love to tell the story about a friend of mine who went to Nordstrom to get some perfume for his wife. The salesperson said, “I’m sorry we don’t sell that brand in our store. But I know where I can get it. How long will you be in the store?” “About 30 minutes,” he replied. “Fine. I’ll go get it, bring it back, gift wrap it, and have it ready for you when you leave.” That’s exactly what she did. And she charged him the same price she had paid at the other store. Nordstrom didn’t make any money on the deal but what did they make? A raving customer.

That is such a great story from Ken. I also love the story of groundskeepers at Disney World and Make-A-Wish Foundation, who turn off their noisy equipment whenever they are near another person, since that supports their missions of “We are in the happiness business” and “We are in the create a memory business” respectively.

How many people do we know and work with who see both these above stories as contrite, soft, and mamsy-pamsy? (been looking to use mamsy-pamsy in a blog forever)

I observe and work with so many employees in different industries that believe that getting their job done is everything. They believe that to slow down for people interruptions is equivalent to caving in to whining or simply babysitting. They fear being perceived as a doormat or being a slave to others whims, and they miss the chance to be red-carpet or servant leaders.

I believe servant leadership can be many things, and that it doesn’t belong in the same sentence with whining. People will often express ‘wants’ first, and if we give into every want – that looks and feels like we become a slave to their wants. Servants listen, learn, unpack, anticipate, and clarify the real motivations behind someone’s words and actions to get to their real need. Real needs are more value-based – like fairness, respect, and not being shamed.  Those are at the heart of people issues and statements, even more than we know.

Great servant leaders realize real influence is not captured in small transactions, rather it is created through building a sense of commitment to people’s needs, not just their wants.

In the story above, the Nordstrom clerk got the perfume and looks like a slave. She didn’t get a raise or recognition. She got a smile – on her own face, as she realized she did a good thing. There is real value and mileage in that kind of personal growth and caring for our values. Our inner smile needs to replace our constant self-doubt and guilt for not being perfect. Are we living our values?

“Values don’t happen because we say them; Values happen because we test them.” ~ Jim Trunick


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