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    heart, head, handsSeveral centuries ago, during the Revolutionary War, a group of soldiers were trying to move a heavy piece of lumber that was blocking the road.  As hard as they tried, over and over again, they couldn’t seem to move it from the ground. Their corporal stood nearby giving them direction and probably graciously allowing them a brief period of rest. He may have even sought their input on “how” to best move the huge piece of wood. But after their repeated efforts, his patience was wearing thin.

    Another more senior army officer came along on horseback and observed their efforts. After a moment, he suggested that the corporal help his men. The corporal responded with a tinge of offense in his voice, “Me? Why, I’m a corporal sir!”

    The senior officer dismounted his horse and stepped over to the men. He positioned himself alongside them, and gave the order to “heave”. All of a sudden, the timber moved into the position where they needed it, no longer blocking the pathway.

    He then turned to the corporal and told him, “The next time you have a piece of timber for your men to move, just call the commander-in-chief.” The officer was George Washington.

    Washington’s behavior modeled servant leadership. He led by example. He didn’t merely direct others, or solicit their input. He demonstrated his willingness to serve and support them. And as a result the soldiers felt his tangible encouragement of their work; and he understood the challenges of their roles.


    Servant leadership begins with alignment of the Heart, Head, and Hands of the leader. So how do you become a servant leader?

    Your HEARTCare about and connect with others. As a leader you can’t effectively connect with your team unless they know that you care about them. The corporal’s ego wouldn’t let him behave in a way that showed care and concern. But Washington immediately demonstrated a willingness to connect with the men and share their burden. They bonded at a heart level.

    Your HEADKnow your purpose, passion and capabilities. Make it a priority to recognize and develop those responsibilities that you perform well, and that bring you great joy. Take leadership and personality assessments to identify your strengths and areas for further development, hire a good coach, solicit feedback from your colleagues and review your performance. Reflect on the effectiveness of your leadership style and find out what works best in your organization.

    Your HANDSDo what you do best. The most rewarding work is that which you love and do well. Don’t think of it in the context of simply providing a product or service. Instead, reflect on the greater good it provides to others. So you can link the “work of your hands” to the value it provides to people.

    The Two Questions

    So now that your Heart, Head, and Hands are aligned, you’re ready for the two questions that you should ask yourself daily.

    1. WHO can I serve?

    You interact daily with family, employees, clients, suppliers, investors, and others. Each one presents an opportunity for service. Do you approach them in terms of how they can help you achieve your goal, or do you think about how you can serve them, and meet their needs?

    1. HOW can I serve?

    There are a variety of ways to serve the people around you.

    • The first and most important is to communicate a sense of purpose or the “why” of the work to be performed. Help them to connect their roles and responsibilities to the bigger picture of the value it creates for others.
    • Establish an environment where high performance is expected, risks are managed, and unnecessary obstacles are removed. Encourage them to fail forward and embrace innovation.
    • Position the product or service to serve and focus on your clients, not to fulfill your own need for position, power or personal gain.
    • Empower the team by identifying and valuing their talents and passions so that you can help them grow into strong servant leaders themselves. Good leaders produce more good leaders.

    How Are You Serving?

    Pat Curran enjoyed a 25-year career working her way up the corporate ladder at Walmart. She was included in Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Woman list in 2005. But in 2009 at the young age of 45, she left her career and highly paid role as executive vice president of store operations and went to nursing school. She is now works pro bono as a newborn specialist in a hospital in Arkansas. She went back to her original passion of nursing because she wanted the next part of her life to focus on serving and giving. 1 And her phenomenal career success provided the financial security for her to be able to do so.

    As an entrepreneur I’m continually in business settings where I’m meeting prospective clients, and I obviously want some of them to purchase my services. But I’ve learned that it’s so much more relaxing and rewarding to talk with them from the perspective of learning how I can serve them.

    Best-selling author and speaker Patrick Lencioni says that there’s no other type of leadership than servant leadership; all leaders should be servants. Are you a servant leader?


    1 The Disappeared, by Jennifer Reingold, Fortune Magazine, September 15, 2016

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