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Four Distinctions of Servant LeadershipThe Servant Leader Effect is built on distinctions. These are distinctions that great leaders use to shape their view of their work. They give you a platform to take effective, decisive action. These distinctions are not theoretical concepts. They are tools that are ready to be used in a practical way. These distinctions distinguish a way to show up as a leader that you probably have not seen before. In some cases they represent a shift in how to show up and in other cases they clarify how to see those you are leading. These distinctions are not complicated. They are designed for immediate application and impact.

The following are the four core distinctions of “The Servant Leader Effect” framework and process:

Design vs. Default

John Maxwell said, “Most people don’t lead life, they accept it.” We approach most things, including leadership, by default. Leading by default is to do it the way it’s always been done or to do it because that’s the way it was done by the person who came before you. Leading by default lacks mindfulness and intention. Leading by design is to be fully you. To lead based upon your own gifts, values, strengths and purpose. Servant leaders mindfully choose how they’ll lead and what their leadership is all about. The ultimate choice of leading by design, instead of by default, is to decide to make your leadership about something or someone else and not about yourself.

Love vs. Love vs. Love

The English language is quite limited with the word love. When you hear or see the word “love” you probably think of the warm feelings you have for a dear person in your life. That definition is quite limited and its application to leadership is difficult. The Greeks got it right by having multiple words to describe love. The most common three Greek words that we have rolled into the single word “love” are eros, philios and agape. Eros is romantic love, philios is brotherly love (think Philadelphia) or quid pro quo love, and agape is unconditional commitment without the requirement of reciprocation. Agape is the love of servant leadership and this is the love that perseveres when a leader isn’t feeling so loving or those you’re leading aren’t so lovable.

Serve vs. Please

I’ll admit it. I’m a people pleaser! My tendency is to do things that make others happy and avoid the things that make them uncomfortable. I’ll often avoid the hard questions, the difficult conversations or giving important feedback if I sense that it will cause them to like me less. Servant leaders serve and don’t please. They serve because it is grounded in agape love and those following know this to be true. Servant leaders powerfully serve legitimate needs (not wants) and this doesn’t always make others comfortable or happy; the goal is to always serve.

Respond vs. Responsible

A leader who loves and serves spends much of his/her time RESPONDING to those being led; however, a servant leader doesn’t abdicate RESPONSIBILITY to point the way, to show what’s possible, and set a clear direction. A servant leader certainly collaborates to define that direction or vision, but takes the responsibility seriously to take the lead and not only point to the future, but also convey why the team, organization or community can’t stay where they are.

Which of the four distinctions resonate for you?

Select one to focus on this week. Write down how it applies to your leadership and the commitment to action you’re making.

Jeff HarmonJeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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