Over many years working in leadership roles whether for a company, a business association, or a community group, it has become clear to me that leaders who are confident, collaborative, inspiring, persistent, positive, and courageous are also some of the most quick to give back to others. The concept of servant leadership is confusing to some people because they wrongly believe that followers are there to serve the leader. This is completely backward. Someone in a leadership role has the responsibility to empower followers to achieve and succeed. A great leader is not concerned with her own achievement, but rather with helping those they lead to become successful. Great leaders listen, coach, mentor, guide, provide resources and service to those they lead. A manager may direct, decide, dictate, and require followers to serve them because they are interested in getting a specific job done. However, servant leadership is different. Servant leaders focus on the growth, development, success, and achievement of their followers. Depending on the situation these followers could be employees, clients, peers, family or community members. The key is that a servant leader is most interested in doing what is needed to serve her followers so that they can learn, grow, achieve more and become great leaders themselves.
After all, as Ralph Nader is credited with saying: The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. Emboldened leaders develop other leaders, give back to the community, continuously problem solve and improve the world around them, and (often quietly), find success through the achievement of others.