The Basics on Being A Servant Leader: Part 2
Nov 20, 2018
Written by Dr. Tony Celelli, SCS President
If servant leaders care deeply about other’s well-being, then one should consider the four directions of leadership: Down, Up, Laterally, and In. The most obvious direction in which leadership is expressed is through the positional posture of down. This relationship is often conceived as boss and subordinate, employer and employee, teacher and student, electorate and elected, etc. For those with positional authority, however, leading down might seem like the most straightforward power relationship. For example, average leaders function in this domain through transactional authority alone like the carrot and stick or quid pro quo methods. Relying solely upon these transactional methods fail to garner the full commitment and capacity of those on the receiving end of “down leadership.” Servant leaders, however, should seek to discover more transformational methods such as shared vision and mission when it comes to empowering direct reports.
Another direction of leadership must also include the UP direction. Leading UP means leading your boss, supervisor, and positional authority. One way to lead up is to switch from complaining to recommending. For instance, a common task of being a boss is dealing with problems. Anyone who chooses to lead up realizes that problems without solutions are nothing more than complaints. Servant leaders who lead UP consider the problem, conceive various solutions, and then present a single recommendation to the boss based on your unique vantage point. Even if the boss goes a different direction, this form of leading UP will certainly set you apart from the run-of-the-mill employee who doesn’t buy into the mission and vision of the boss.
Another direction of leadership is leading laterally. This form of leadership does not have the usual power dynamics of the Up and Down leadership. Instead, leading laterally among one’s peers successfully requires significant dexterity. Without the usual hierarchy boundaries, leading laterally requires two keys: the golden rule and reciprocal communication. The Golden Rule is an ancient mandate to treat others in ways that represent common decency. Stated either positively or negatively, it simply means that appropriate behavior is the kind you would personally appreciate.
Likewise, the second key to leading laterally is a heightened level of reciprocal communication. The process of sending a message is not complete until the receiver of the message replies. Oftentimes, we communicate unilaterally in the form of “telling someone something.” This form of speaking is not communication but rather lecture. There are appropriate times for lecture but seldom while leading laterally. Instead, peers ought to develop the mantra of “if you fail to understand, then I have failed to communicate” as the criteria of reciprocal communication.
Finally, one of the most difficult, but also most rewarding kinds of leadership is leading In. Leading yourself internally could also be called self management. If you want to get ahead professionally, then you MUST learn the art of self management. Leadership is a two-sided coin: the leader’s character (who you are as a person) and the leader’s conduct (what you do as a leader). Said another way, behavior always stems from belief. Whether you understand belief leads to behavior or character shapes conduct, they all lead us to the same conclusion: who you are in private correspondingly affects who you are in public. For the servant leader, character and conduct are welded together making a stronger union.
This article is part two in a multi-part series on Servant Leadership that was presented to Denver County Sheriff’s Deputies.