Flashy Business Executive with an Exotic Car

The Flashy Executive May Not Be The Best Leader

You’ve heard it said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Well, here is a parallel for you: It’s not the size of the leader in the service, but the size of the service in the leader that matters.

What Really Matters

In other words, it doesn’t matter how big, famous, popular or accomplished the leader seems. It doesn’t matter how many letters the leader has after his or her name (MBA, PhD, PMP…). No, what really matters is how much the leader seeks to serve others.

A leader who serves others, leads others. A leader who serves only himself, leads only himself. Therefore, if a leader’s career has focused on building fame and fortune, rather than successful teams and organizations, the size of their service is small. The potential for sustainable success under a non-serving leader is even smaller. So how do you gauge the level of service in a leader? Here are some outward signs of a serving leader:

Outward Signs of a Serving Leader

1. Employees Promoted: How many former employees of the leader are now peers or superiors? This is especially valid for individuals that moved on to other teams or organizations, where the leader was no longer the decision maker. If the leader is selfless enough to ensure direct reports attain the qualifications to meet or surpass their own, you likely have a serving leader.

2. Positive Customer Service Scores: Whoever the customer – internal or external – do they respond positively regarding the leader’s organization? If so, then the leader has likely been focused on serving customer needs.

3. Boss’s Success: Have their previous bosses been successful? If, while the leader was in their employ, these individuals had a successful track record, then the leader was likely serving their bosses. Otherwise, the leader may have focused on their own, individual recognition over the success of the team.

4. Humility in Titles: Does the leader reflect conservative views on their own titles? A servant leader does not overstate titles or broadcast accreditation excessively. A humility in titles reflects a leader who is more concerned about delivering results than about impressing others.

5. Status Symbol Control: Does the leader avoid flashy status symbols, such as prominently displaying high profile brands, exotic cars, expensive jewelry or other perks of the elite? Is so, they are likely more concerned with leveraging resources for the service of others than their own narcissism.

So the next time you need the right individual for the job, consider the size of the service in the leader and not the size of the leader in the service. Prominent external hires can also produce prominent external failures. It just may be that who you need is not the flashy, public figure, but the quiet, reserved, serving leader already in your midst.

Question: What other outward signs are good examples of servant leaders?