Servant Leadership: Rise Above Intimidation, Manipulation & Other Misconceptions Regarding Leadership

There are many myths and misconceptions about how to get ahead in today’s work place.  Today, I’d like to talk to you about two of them. As well as, the not so obvious alternative to both of them.  That alternative is servant leadership. When it comes to getting ahead many people, in the work place, try to seize extreme control of any situation which may advance them or their cause. Many do this through either becoming a master at manipulation, assuming a “my way or the highway” mentality or both. Each of these paths will erode away the ethical framework of who you are.  And it silences your inner ethical voice.

The first myth I’ll discuss is the one dealing with manipulation. Now if you are talking about operating a “thing”, car, machinery, etc. by mechanical means, then manipulation is not necessarily a bad thing.  However, when one moves from manipulating an inanimate object, like machinery, to the manipulation of a person; it takes on a whole different meaning. Webster’s defines manipulation as attempting to control or play upon by artful, unfair or insidious means to one’s own advantage over another person or persons. And most people are not really enthusiastic about being artfully, unfairly or insidiously controlled by another person.

  • When it comes to manipulation in the work place, the underlying motivators are a need to win by any means necessary or coveting what an another peer, up line supervisor or executive has.  I’ve no problem with competition for a position and the best person being chosen for the job.  This is the way it should be. What is of concern is the “by any means necessary” part.  This opens one to coveting what someone else has because they want or feels they deserve it more. Coveting is a desire which exceeds all morality and ethical decency.  It’s a way of thinking which, after time, builds sound proof walls around your internal ethical voice.   And after time, that voice is silenced and we find ourselves taking unsavory and, at times, illegal acts to obtain our desire. Doing so, simply to advance ones self at the expense of another. Manipulation will put you on a path of losing who you are and what you could be. Instead you spiral downward, becoming what you were never meant to be. 
  • But what is the alternative? How about servant leadership?  I remembering taking on a new job which included taking on certain cases from other investigators.  At the beginning, many investigators were skeptical of me and my new position.  Some thought, I would be taking credit away from them for those cases. Understanding their concerns, I kept up with the stats of those cases. I presented a positive report on each investigator to their supervisors for their respective performance reviews.  I pointed out how I would not be successful, but for the initial work of each investigator. And any win I had was due, in part, to the initial work of the investigator.  Once this happened, investigators openly referred cases to me and I’d worked along side them to help them with their other cases. The simple servant leadership premise I worked from can be found in the writings of John C. Spears, CEO & President of Spears Center of Servant Leadership. Spears said, “That there is a deep hunger in our society for a world where people truly care for one another, where people are treated humanely and helped in their personal growth, where workers and customers are treated fairly, and where our leaders can be trusted to serve the needs of the many, rather than the few. We seek a model of leadership based upon teamwork, community, and ethical and caring behavior. Being a team player who put others first and placed emphasis on team gain rather than self gain made me a success.

The second myth has to do with the rationale of the “it’s my way or the highway” mentality. Now, there are times when a leader gives a directive which just needs to be followed, up to a point, with no questions asked.  When I was in the Navy we would conduct drills, like touch and goes on the flight deck aboard a ship.  Aviators would practice landing and taking off in their helicopters.  As flight safety officer, if they came in too low or if there was a safety issue, I would order my landing signalman enlisted to waive them off.  Basically telling the pilot they could not land. There were no arguments or counter points to be made. If you were waived off, you were waived off the landing.  However, when I speak of the “my way or the highway” mentality; I’m talking about those who feel they are right about nearly everything. They have to be in full control at all times. And they allow no dissenters what-so-ever. You either follow them or hit the road as a former employee.  There is almost no middle ground with them.

  • Again, there is a servant leadership alternative. Our peers and subordinates may have ideas which may solve a present problem or prevent one in the future.  Thus saving you, the team and the company time, effort and money. Therefore, we have to periodically silence our external voice, move beyond one’s managerial title and listen to others.  James C. Hunter, author of The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership, stated, “Active listening requires a disciplined effort to silence all that internal conversation while we’re attempting to listen to another human being. It requires a sacrifice, and extension of ourselves, to block out the noise and truly enter another person’s world-even for a few minutes.” Notice Hunter says we have to make a sacrifice.  A sacrifice which includes blocking off the noise of our our voice, so we can enter into the world of others. You cannot talk and listen fully at the same time.  Listening adds value to others and gives you positive influence over them.  And as John C. Maxwell states, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It’s about one life influencing another.”

As leaders we must rise above the myths and misconceptions about how to get ahead in today’s work place. We need to set them aside and embrace the servant leadership alternatives to them. The way to get ahead is to truly be aware of who you are.  Know your unique gifts and enhance them through personal growth and development as a servant leader. Then you will have the confidence to know you can compete with anyone at any time, any place and for any job. In doing so, you will not only maintain your ethical framework, but you prevent erecting barriers to your inner ethical voice.   The voice which is the essence, of who you truly are.

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