How to be a better leader: Serve

Leading people is one of the hardest responsibilities a person can take on in life. Many people fail and even more are trying to sell some secret formula to being the perfect leader. I am not going to claim to know all the answers, but what I have experienced is leaders that live by example and are willing to serve, foster a larger degree of trust and rapport with their team. This trust and rapport can be converted into efficiencies and a greater level of effort from your team.

Working as a project manager has helped me learn a lot about leadership, but more importantly it has given me a better understanding of people. For those that don’t know, a project managers job is to help coordinate the team, manage tasks and timelines, keep strong communication with stakeholders and team members, and provide processes and workflows for tracking and completing the assignment. Most of a project manager’s time is kept at the pure process level, all tasks, no personal. Other times a project manager must spend time connecting with the team, trying to understand them, and doing their best to assess the team's ability to accomplish their tasks on time. While the project manager has a lot of responsibility, they generally do not have any formal authority over the team. This requires the project manager to develop trust, rapport, and confidence with the team; knowing that it is their responsibility to get the project across the finish line. Without the team’s support and backing that can’t happen.

Good project managers know that they must provide the support and resources for their team to accomplish their tasks. They know that their role is to come alongside the team, and find out how to best serve them. This gives the project manager a deeper understanding of how the team functions, allowing the PM to provide a tailored level of support to the team. By changing the perspective from “how can I get people to accomplish a goal” to “how can I serve the team so that we accomplish our goal”, leaders will see enormous benefits. Instead of the team feeling like they are constantly being pushed for updates and progress, they will proactively communicate their needs and be honest about the support they need. These are the benefits of being a servant leader.

If more leaders and managers today implemented this simple principle, I think a lot of people would enjoy their jobs much more. No one enjoys being hounded for updates when all you want to do is put your head down and work. But people do like to feel heard. We respect people who are willing to get in the trenches with us, and most of all, everyone wants to be a part of something more.

Change your perspective, serve your team, serve your employees, serve those around you. Look for ways to use authority to build up your team. Look for ways to serve them and make their jobs easier. And if you do, I would be surprised to hear that your job doesn’t get easier.

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