Rather in humility value others above yourself.”

Philippians 2:3

Technical expertise. Business acumen. Experience.

You, as a leader, benefit from accruing these things. In fact you must accrue them, if you’re going to remain a viable leader as the rate of change speeds up. But while these things are important, they aren’t worth a hill of beans if you aren’t also accruing something else — humility.

Humility is the foundation of servant leadership, because it’s through being humble – through putting others first and charging them up – that you become qualified to actually be in charge.

Putting others first…

Thinking about their needs before your own…

Extending trust and help and resources, when you aren’t absolutely certain your support will pay off…

Be honest. Do you cringe just a little when you think about leading this way, every hour of every day? Does it sound like nice talk, but impractical in our hard-driving culture and economy? I get the opportunity to work with men and women every single day who have taken the necessary steps to develop humility and, in doing so, become extremely impactful servant leaders. As their humility has deepened, so have their business results. It’s a direct correlation.

So how do you develop humility? The good news is that humility isn’t some abstract concept. You develop it through taking the following concrete steps:

  • Bring Jesus onto your team. I have found the only way I can shift my focus towards the greater good of others is to make consistent room in my life to pray and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. Jesus certainly modeled the way on this one. He constantly looked to His Father who supplied Him the power to give everything He had for all of us. If Jesus didn’t carry the responsibility of leadership alone, why do you think you have to? Your effectiveness in putting others before yourself can be greatly enhanced by allowing Jesus to work through you to accomplish great things for the people you lead.
  • Spend 60 – 75% of your time focused on your people and your culture. I’ll never forget when my business coach, Chris Edmonds, looked me in the eye and asked me to think about this shift in focus. I was leading a sector of a publically held company at the time. We had an acute focus on operations and financial performance. Any short-term earnings dip would lead to getting spanked by the investment community on our stock price. I wasn’t sure Chris’ request was possible. I was wrong. After making the shift toward humility-based servant leadership, we realized a dramatic positive improvement in all aspects of operations and financial performance. Relationships and Culture do indeed drive results!
  • Spend less time defining expectations for your team and more time identifying how you can support your team. It is always important to define expectation and consequences as a leader. People need to know what is expected of them, and what the consequences are for missed targets. But it is more important to identify what you need to do to help your team succeed. You might need to train your people. Coach them. Praise them. Or you might need to provide resources or break down barriers. Spend the majority of your time meeting the needs of your team to ensure their success, and your own success (and satisfaction!) will follow.
  • Ask for feedback. Have your team keep an eye on your actions and behaviors and ask them to provide input into how you might improve as their leader. Does this feel a bit uncomfortable? Sure it does. But whom would you rather work for? Someone who is always telling you what to do and critiquing your work, or someone who is asking you how they could improve their leadership towards you? This practice will drive fear out of the organization and set up consistent communication to allow for improvement. Be humble, and you improve. Your improvement will fuel the improvement of every aspect of your organization.
  • Get out of your office. Humility is all about being present and approachable. There is no way that you can take the actions listed above if you sit behind your desk looking at reports. Carve out specific times in your day to be out with your team. Talk to your people! Ask them questions. Cultivate humility through listening. Through listening, you’ll get the information you need to be effective in helping your team grow.

Take these concrete steps. Practice these behaviors. And then take stock. Consider…

Are the people you are serving growing? Are they achieving their dreams, enhancing their competence, and growing as leaders themselves? If the answer is yes, then you are well on your way to developing humility, growing as a servant leader, and become truly qualified to be the one in charge.

Once you take these steps, I will 100% guarantee that you will never look back. There is nothing more fulfilling than to help others achieve what they were born to achieve.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10


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MARK Deterding is an author, speaker, consultant, executive coach and the founder of Triune Leadership Services, LLC. His purpose is to work with leaders to help them develop core servant leadership capabilities that allow them to lead at a higher level and enable them to achieve their God-given potential. He has written two books, A Model of Servant Leadership, and Leading Jesus’ Way. With over three decades of experience directing companies and developing leaders, Mark created A Model of Servant Leadership parallel to the principles that Jesus himself illustrated. Working with organizations, leadership teams, and executives one-on-one, he helps bring focus, clarity, and action to make things work. He also conducts training programs to teach faith-based servant leadership principles. His greatest passion is seeing the impact servant leadership has on people’s lives and beyond. Prior to Triune Leadership Services he worked for 35 years in the printing industry holding senior leadership positions at Taylor Corporation, RR Donnelly, and Banta Corporation. He is an accomplished executive with a proven track record for developing purpose-driven; values based teams that drive culture improvement, enhanced employee passion, and improved business results. He is featured in Ken Blanchard’s book “Leading at a Higher Level”, and has been a featured speaker for the Ken Blanchard Companies Executive Forum in both 2007 and 2011. Mark lives in Alexandria, Minnesota with his wife Kim. They have two sons, two daughter-in-laws, and three grandchildren, so far. To find out more about Mark and his work, visit Triune Leadership Services via the Link adjacent his Photo above.
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