I have the privilege to work with college students from around the country teaching them about leadership and what it takes to be successful in the working world.
Recently, someone asked me what one leadership lesson I would teach to these students if I could only teach one lesson.
The single leadership lesson is to serve. Take a deep interest in people and add massive value. Find out what people need to be better, do better and be successful and serve that need. Be the guy or gal who is known for being the person everyone wants on their side.
Serving builds credibility and puts you in a position to influence regardless of position or power. It’s likely that over time so much inner authority (a.k.a. influence) will be formed that people will start looking to you to point the way (a.k.a. be a leader).
Tim Sander, in his book Love is the Killer App, submits that serving is done by sharing your knowledge, network and your compassion.
Service can come in a variety of forms, but whatever form it takes, take great care to ensure that you’re genuine in your interest. If there’s even a shred of dishonesty, in-authenticity or an unspoken sense “I’m really doing this for me and not you”, people will smell a phony from a mile away. Consider this story from Tim Keller’s Prodigal God as you look to apply this lesson.
Once upon a time there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. So he took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow. Therefore I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I own a plot of land right next to yours. I want to give it to you freely as a gift so you can garden it all.” And the gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing. But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this. And he said to himself, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot – what if you gave the king something better?” So the next day the nobleman came before the king and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will. Therefore I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” The king discerned his heart and said thank you, took the horse and merely dismissed him. The nobleman was perplexed. So the king said, “let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.”
Zig Ziglar famously said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Start by giving the person right in front of you your full attention and interest and then serve the need you see, hear or sense.