Chesty Puller, considered by many to be "Mr. Marine Corps," said once that the corps needed men who could lead, not command. Commanders tell people what to do; a leader shows people what to do by personal example.
Who would have thought that Mr. Marine was all about servant leadership?
One of the hardest parts of sitting in the proverbial "corner office" is remembering that leading requires action. Without action, no one has an example of how to "be" in the organization.
We all like to be acknowledged and fawned over--especially when we've reached a perceived pinnacle of career success. Truth be told, few of us like to roll up our sleeves and wait on others. Yet this is exactly how people are drawn into the service of our vision. Few things are as magnetic as seeing an individual help someone else.
When was the last time you quietly helped a hassled co-worker or direct report put the finishing touches on a project? Or maybe something as simple as pouring coffee for the participants gathered around a meeting table?
During an executive gathering in a mahogany filled suite on the top floor of a corporate building in Philadelphia a few years ago, a glance out the window revealed that a blizzard was sweeping in. The CEO--coincidentally a former naval commander--noticed as well. This man had been brought in to make some difficult, long-term changes and had done so quite successfully. But what he was about to do is why I remember him.
There was too much food for the participants in the meeting. Everyone invited couldn't get there. At the end of the brief luncheon meeting he said: "There are people within 3 blocks of here who are homeless and probably huddled under the walkways. Let's gather up these sandwiches and chips, find those people and feed them."
The Mark of Leadership.