If you stop and think of some of the most inspiring people in the history of humanity, who do you think about?  Perhaps it is a great military strategist, maybe a brilliant entrepreneur, some might even gravitate towards an artist or scholar.

A lot of us will answer this question by picking a person whose accomplishments and personal attributes we desire to emulate or replicate in our own lives.  To some extent, you can know a lot about a person by knowing who they respect.

Perhaps it is uncommon in the business world, but I find that the most inspirational people in all time are those who sacrifice their own interests to benefit their fellow man.  I say it is uncommon because the business world has traditionally been a “eat what you kill, survival of the fittest” type of world.  Many business leaders would say they are inspired by people who embody power and influence over others.  Many of the leadership paradigms that most frequently exist in practice are greatly influenced by these desires and aspirations.

But, is it really true that the path to fulfilling your potential is paved by one power play after another, or is there another way?

Research has shown that the careers rated as most fulfilling have a common trait.  They all involve direct service towards fellow human beings (teachers, counselors, coaches, etc.).  Surprisingly, CEO, COO, CIO, and CFO did not make the list!

In his book, The Culture Engine, organizational consultant S. Chris Edmonds says that servant leadership is the foundation for leading others effectively. According to Edmonds.

Edmonds goes onto define two beliefs and five practices of servant leaders.

Servant leaders believe that…

1. Every person has value and deserves civility, trust, and respect

2. People can accomplish much when inspired by a purpose beyond themselves

According to Edmonds, the five practices of servant leaders include the following…

3. Clarify and reinforce the need for service to others

Servant leaders educate the members of their team through their words and actions, and they encourage their people to set aside self-serving behaviors in favor of serving others.

4. Listen intently and observe closely

Servant leaders really listen to their people, and they actively solicit their participation, their ideas, and their feedback. In time, they get to know the worldview of each one of their employees, and they tailor their leadership approach accordingly.

5. Act as selfless mentors

Servant leaders know that by helping to guide the people who work for them, they will help their employees learn vital skills that will both improve their performance, and improve them as people.

6. Demonstrate persistence

Servant leaders realize that one or two conversations may not have the desired change in an employee’s assumptions or mindset. So they are tenacious and invest whatever time it takes to educate and inspire servant leadership practices in the members of their team.

7. Lovingly hold themselves and others accountable for their commitments

Servant leaders know that no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes–including themselves. With that in mind, they push for high standards of performance, service quality, and alignment of values throughout the team, and they hold themselves and their people accountable for their performance.

Let’s try something new… 

So if you are feeling like you have reached a wall in your career either in its growth or in the level of fulfillment you find in it, I would encourage you to give servant leadership a try.  You might find that the people around you are drawn to a “new you.”  In fact, you might find that you are also drawn to the “new you” as well.   If you want to get ahead and find fulfillment in the process, focus on helping others get ahead first.

Phillip Stoller