Does a grateful attitude help in being a servant-leader?
Most of us know what servant-leadership is. We understand the general concept of acting gracious toward our direct reports and team, focusing on what’s best for others or the success of the team rather than our personal gain of recognition, or power, whatever it is that you desire from your work.
Servant leadership is something everyone can practice because everyone has the power to influence, or lead someone. Power is leading or directing - think pulling or pushing someone in some area – anything from leading a work team to identify the solution to that complex productivity issue, or to coaxing a child to tie their own shoes . The “servant” in servant-leadership can be serving our work teams, our family, our community or our country.
Gratitude in Servant Leadership
I saw a story about the Easter sisters – three sisters that are all attending different military academies, who upon graduation will serve our country in their chosen branch of the armed services. They are following in the steps of previous generations of Easter’s – a family with over 100 years of military service.
In the story, they talked about the academies they were attending, their majors, and why they made the decision to be in the military. Why weren’t they pursuing financially rewarding careers in the private sector? Why were they serving when they had many options open to them that would allow them more freedom and larger incomes - maybe even more prestige?
What caught my attention was when one of the sisters answered the interviewer’s question about the “why” of their service. There were comments about the family tradition, the values that were impressed upon them, and how they were raised - answers I expected. But then, one sister added a phrase to the “how we were raised” answer. She said that service to others had been modeled to them – service to their country through military service, service to their community by volunteering, and service to their family by being supportive when help was needed. Then this sister said that it isn’t just about serving or being a servant-leader, it was also having an attitude of gratefulness.
I began to think on this. Is this true? Is a grateful attitude needed to serve? Is an attitude of gratefulness needed to be a servant-leader? The more I though about it, the more I agreed. I think, and I’m sure there are others that will think differently, that when there is an attitude of gratefulness, or thankfulness, or appreciation, there is also humility. I’m not thinking of humilitas (Latin for “humility”) as when someone drops to their knees because what has been bestowed upon them is just too overwhelming to stand, or self-deprecation, but a “groundedness”. (There is a book on this topic by John Dickson called Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership). As a grateful person, you likely know who you are, where you are, what you are doing, and why you are doing it. When we have a sense of these things I think humility can come easier to us. Gratitude can come easier to us. We are able to be better leaders – better servant-leaders.