Written by Jason Haines
“And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants forever.” -Kings 12:7, KJV
For those familiar with this story in the bible they may agree to not serve your people tends to bite one in the end. For those that don’t know this story, King Rehoboam was asked by Jeroboam and his people to be treated better under his rule than his father’s rule. Rehoboam consulted the elders and they told him the above passage, yet he then consulted his childhood friends who told him to treat these people worse. This didn’t please God who made it hard for Rehoboam to rule the people of his kingdom. Now this was a big mistake, or blunder as some would say, made by the king in that he did not serve his people and decided to rule them instead.
This story is one of the early stories of a leader who had the chance to choose between ruling and the decision to be a servant leader. And he made the wrong choice that in the end made his life hard. Leaders must make this choice as to whether we want to be leaders who will serve our people or leaders who are just trying to advance our agenda. When we make the choice to be the servant leader the work up front is hard. Building relationships, understanding people, helping people, and lastly putting our pride and self-last takes a lot of work. When we are a leader of reward, we are looking to just push our agenda and not worried about other people’s needs. Lean management is a choice to become a servant leader.
In the world of Lean one must make a choice to give up on the immediate rewards of traditional management and take a long-term view to help others and to help the organization. As I always tell people Lean will be hard at first but the rewards once we push through the original work will be extremely rewarding. Not only will work become easier we will also have built relationships, made other leaders, and helped our organization become better. This will help your organization stay around and be profitable for years to come. It will also help to make employees that work for you feel safe and secure in their jobs. Giving employees opportunities to grow with the company as well as providing a work environment that has the feeling of security helps all frontline employees do better.
We always hear about providing employees with opportunities to grow and empowering them, but we also must add in the part where they feel secure in their jobs as well. A servant leader provides this security by making the necessary sacrifices in times of issues. When we look out for only ourselves, we lose a lot of trust that sometimes can never be gotten back. This hurts us as leaders because we cannot expect those same employees to help or stick around with the organization. When you are a servant leader you will have loyal employees who want to help you and want to help the organization succeed.
Often, managers forget that our biggest salespeople for our organization are our employees. These are the people that represent us, the company, and the products that we provide. If we don’t make the proper sacrifices to help them feel secure, empowered, and provide them with opportunities they will not help us grow as an organization. You want them to brag to their friends about the company, their jobs and how great of a place they work at. Showing people you care is worth its weight in gold any day.
One of the greatest servant leaders of all time was Jesus himself. Jesus took twelve men and provided them with the knowledge, capabilities, and security to help them grow so they could take his word out into the world and teach others. He did this by not controlling how they did things but by teaching them how to do the things they did through experience and mistakes. This is how Lean is meant to work for the people on the floor and in the office. Leaders provide the people with teachings, coaching, and guidance to allow them to solve problems on their own and make the proper corrections when needed. This helps employees feel that they are wanted by the company and secure in their jobs, which in turn encourages them go out and promote our organization.
Many of the greatest leaders have been servant leaders who make the necessary sacrifices for their teams. These leaders are rewarded in the end with things other leaders will never have or even think about enjoying. Many realize that they need to prioritize their people above them and show them the way through their life and watch them grow. This growth will help create a future for the organization and will also bleed over into other organizations because people see the greatness. Take sports for instance and the coaching trees. Many of the great organizations have a heritage of producing great players and coaches that go on to other teams to help those teams grow. These coaches bring along what they are taught in their former organization and teach the new organization those habits of greatness.
This process can be also put into place at your organization. Not all your people are going to stick around all the time, but what you teach them they can take along with them to their new jobs and teach other people. Being able to teach, coach, mentor, and guide people can be one of the most rewarding experiences that leaders will ever have. Seeing a person succeed and teaching someone else to succeed is a feeling that makes us all happy. This is where we are rewarded at the end of the day because we will be provided by these people as people who will help us anytime. That is the great part of being a servant leader.
Some of my favorite leadership times have been allowing others to take the lead on a job and learn as they teach. Recently I had the chance to train, teach, and facilitate an event with a group and allowed them to take charge of the event. It was amazing to see people taking what I had taught them and using it throughout their project to make the proper changes to their facility and help the jobs become more efficient. Going back into this facility and seeing the other changes they are making and the employees feeling empowered through growth is more rewarding than if I made the changes myself.
I always wanted to be a coach, in sports of course, for the reason of seeing others succeed. But after I found a passion of being part of the manufacturing field, I found that I can help guide, teach, and coach people who are working the frontlines. At the end of the day helping these people see changes in their jobs by mentoring them, and then seeing that light of excitement “go on” is one of the best feelings. That is why I chose to be a servant leader, because there is nothing better than seeing people succeed.
Helping grow your business through process improvement!!