How to Escape the “War for Talent”
How red tape strangles employee engagement

How to be a Real Leader

“The goal of leadership is producing servants.” What do you make of that statement – a recent article headline? Do you agree?

For me it encapsulates everything that is wrong with our approach to leadership. Let me explain why.

“Producing servants” implies people doing what the leader wants. After all, the dictionary (Webster’s) defines servant as “1. A person employed by another for menial offices or other labour; one who exerts himself for the benefit of another, his master. 2. A slave.”  If you regard your employees as servants it inevitably follows that they will feel themselves to be working for you or your benefit, which can translate, in their minds, to seeing themselves as slaves. You will never garner the employee engagement you need for success with either of those mind sets. And it is yours that determines both!

Ironically the article with that headline was actually promoting the concept of “servant leadership.” This, however, is an equally demeaning concept. After all, if the leader sees himself/herself as a servant, he/she is encouraging others to think of his/her work as menial and ultimately him/her as their slave. That can be just as counter-productive (as any revolution initially proves.)  

Yes, as a leader you do have a key role to play in enabling your people to do what they need to do, or providing for their needs, and to that extent you may see yourself as their servant. To call yourself their servant, however, is a complete inversion that ultimately subverts the relationship and your mutual efforts. This is a trap you need to avoid. So, how do you do that?

Ultimately it comes back to redefining leadership. And the best definition of leadership I have found is: “Inspiring others to want what you want.” This essentially brings you back to purpose, for you can only inspire others with a clearly delineated, desirable purpose.

Organisationally this requires the organisation to have a clear purpose and everyone in it to be aligned with and working towards it. You as a leader have to define, communicate and embody that purpose in everything you do. Then others will follow. Your task will, however, be considerably easier if you introduce employee ownership which, at the very least, provides a framework and catalyst to engender such engagement.

Leadership 14767404_s 123RFIn today’s fast-paced, rapidly changing and globally competitive market place it is by far the best way to ensure your organisation’s sustainability. You are really looking for people to do what is needed because they know what is needed, without being told. This is popularly known as “distributed leadership” and effectively means that. “The goal of leaders is to create leaders.” This is, literally, the exact opposite of the opening headline. So do not allow yourself to be led astray. Your ultimate success, and the sustainability of your organisation, depends on you being this kind of real leader.


Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, a company created to help larger small to large business organisations to properly value their people and thereby inspire them to optimise their self-worth and so engage them that they transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”


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