If you’ve read my blog for long, you have heard me say many times “leaders are readers” and even more often you have seen me cite writers of the books which I have read. My best friend knows how committed I am to being a life-long learner and to reading books which help me grow as a leader, so a few weeks ago he sent me a book by Brady and Woodward (2006). The title, Launching a Leadership Revolution, intrigued me, so I dove right into it. Although I have read most of the concepts before and even written about many myself, I found the book to be a treasury of solid leadership principles which we all can apply to our own leadership development. The authors provide a foundational method of learning how to be a leader and identify many of the steps and characteristics leaders must take and develop. Their method, which is very similar to the early writings of leadership legend Zig Ziglar, focuses on certain traits and disciplines a person must have to begin the journey of leadership, then the stair steps a developing leader takes as they become more and more proficient. Throughout the book, they continually support their methods with statements from other respected leadership writers and provide real-life examples of some of the great leaders from history. I was quite impressed with the size and scope of the bibliography.
Over the next few weeks of this blog, I want to highlight some of the concepts which particularly impressed me, beginning with one of my most passionately-held themes: servant leadership. In the book, Brady and Woodward cite Peter Drucker making a wonderfully servant-leader-oriented statement, “No leader is worth his salt who won’t set up chairs!” (Exclamation point, mine). Brady and Woodward then make it clear: – “Leaders must learn that to lead means to serve.” This is so very right on point. I believe that the best leaders, particularly those who do as I do and lead volunteers, must be ready to serve the people they lead, work closely beside them every step of the way, and be ready to do whatever job needs to be done, even if that means they have to get their hands dirty and “set up chairs.”
I once worked with someone who felt that they had risen in their leadership role past setting up chairs. I remember them specifically stating, “I spent the first fifteen years of my ministry setting up chairs. Now I can have others do that.” I remember being horrified by the arrogance and non-servant attitude at the time, and since then, I’ve become quite the activist for servant leadership, so when I come across someone like that now, I’m deeply saddened by their I’m-above-that-kind-of-work attitude. I strongly believe that true leaders are first and foremost servants of the people they lead and the people they serve together. Nothing will deflate the morale of a team faster than a leader who holds their position over the others and all but says, “I’m better than you are.” People want to follow a cause worth following and a person who inspires and encourages, not someone who avoids the hard work and feels they are above certain kinds of tasks. A true leader will set up chairs, empty the trash, clear the dishes and more, on the way to doing the more attractive jobs as well.
I once worked with a leader who was the president of a publishing and distribution company. At the end of the first conference we did together, I noticed that he was helping to box up the unsold product. I mentioned that I thought he would have his staff do that, but he looked at me and said something I’ve never forgotten, “This is the glamour part of the job.” I decided then and there that I wanted to be like him, so I would always be willing to do the glamour part of the job. To this day my wife and I still refer to menial labor as the glamour part of any task.
Next week we’ll look at more from the book I just finished. In the meantime, do the glamorous and set up the chairs. I will too.