“I serve you, you serve the consumer.”
That’s the message from a servant leader boss. Of course, it’s assumed then that the consumers, well served by the team, give them their business. That, in turn, means profits for investors in the for-profit world. As for non-profits, the consumer benefits from the service they received, driving progress in the NPO’s mission.
Too often today, instead the message from a boss is: “You serve me, I serve my boss.” When that happens, the team’s focus is inward. Over time, more bosses, focused on themselves, rise to the top. The net result is an increasingly self-centered approach to the organization’s growth.
This is no excuse for not serving all stakeholders. An exclusive focus on any single stakeholder group (including employees or consumers) could be damaging to the sustainability of the company. Instead, it’s a statement that when a leader serves their team, the team serves their consumer effectively. When the consumer is well served, business (or the mission) prospers. So if all is done right, “I serve you, you serve the consumer” drives success.
Do your bosses have that simple understanding? It starts at the top. Would your CEO say they serve employees? Or do they say they serve their boss? By the way, the boss of a CEO is the Board of Directors. Their boss is investors, philanthropists or the congregation.
Question: What do you think? If the CEO says they serve investors rather than employees, is the leadership model broken?
I agree with your statement that we need to serve all stakeholders. What I find is a convoluted message too often is the priorities of service. This is where I often see mixed messages. For example, a statement by someone in management stating the customer is the most important element but as soon as something arises that affects the manager directly, he or she becomes top priority.
Thanks for a great read, Ben!