As this year winds down, I’m preoccupied with the question of how I can be more effective next year. My historical method, and the process I’ve started for 2014, has been to create a plan – complete with goals, strategies and tactics. However, someone challenged me recently with the idea of establishing resolutions. She said, “If you were going to create resolutions for the New Year to be a better servant leader, what would you include?”
Here’s my current thinking on the top ten New Year’s resolutions to become a better servant leader…
10. Fight the gravitational pull of today. My role, and yours, is to create the future. I must invest enough time and mental energy to see it, marshal the resources to fund the journey and help chart the course to make it a reality. Be careful... without focused effort, today always pushes out tomorrow.
9. Focus on individual team members – not just the team. Each member of the team is unique. What motivates and inspires one is not always the same for the next. Managers strive to treat people the same - leaders treat people differently.
8. Identify specific improvement targets. When we focus time, energy and resources on our problems or opportunities, we make progress. This applies to my life, the team and the organization. Generalities don’t drive improvement – specifics do.
7. Value people and results. The best leaders value results and relationships. Most of us have a natural bias towards one or the other. To get the results we desire, we must value both the people and their production. If you can get results without others, you're not leading.
6. Walk the talk. I’m not perfect, not by a long shot. However, the people we lead don’t really expect perfect. What they expect, and deserve, is the integrity that comes with attempting, on a daily basis, to align our words and our actions. People always watch the leader.
5. Learn something every day. Leaders are learners – period. If I stop learning, my leadership journey is over. It may be a while before it actually ends, but it’s like cutting down a living tree - the tree will still have leaves on the branches for a while, but the tree is already dead – even if it doesn’t know it yet.
4. Fight pessimism in my life. Pessimism is cancer for a leader. It will destroy our influence. As Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” We must be able to see a preferred future and believe we can help create it. People don’t rally to be part of a future created by pessimists.
3. Own mistakes and share praise. I will not blame others – the best leaders don’t. They have high levels of personal responsibility. I’ll also be quick to give praise. This single resolution, if honored, will help me and you earn the respect of those we lead.
2. Be more courageous – daily. Courage is the catalyst for leadership. Without courage, it is impossible to lead well. I’ll not wait until the big opportunity. Courage, when absent on a daily basis, will ensure the big moment will never appear. I will continue to pursue the courageous path.
1. Think others first. This is the genesis of servant leadership. If I slip into the quicksand of self, I will not lead for long. People want to follow a leader who has their best interest at heart. Servant leaders don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less often.[GLS_Shield]
If you made a list of New Year’s resolutions for a servant leader, what would you include?