How often have you been in an organization where you were keenly aware of a situation that caused you concern or angst, but the leader seemed unaware of what was occurring because they were perhaps uninterested, aloof, or just looked the other way? This lack of awareness can be a detriment to the culture of the organization and might lead to distrust and discord among the followers. Awareness is a quality of a servant leader that helps them avoid these perceptions and instead helps them focus on meeting the needs of others.
Servant leaders are aware of their situation, their organization, and most importantly their people. They take a genuine interest in understanding what is occurring around them so that they can have a positive and lasting impact. Servant leaders may not always have the answers, but they do have awareness, which is the key to asking the right questions and then finding the answers. Jim Collins, in his classic book Good to Great, talks about “confronting the brutal facts” and how leaders must be aware of the situation they face and honest about facts of that situation. Too often leaders try to sugarcoat a situation or simply ignore reality. Unfortunately neither of those strategies is effective at concealing the truth. Instead, they only mask it for a period of time and prolong the potential harm to the organization and its people.
Servant leaders also have a great deal of self-awareness. They understand that they do not know everything and must rely on the help of others. They are aware of their limitations and value the importance of a team effort. Servant leaders know that they have a great responsibility to the organization and people that they lead, and this causes them to be focused on service over self. How refreshing!
Servant leaders understand that awareness is an essential quality needed to effectively lead an organization in the right direction. It allows them to be intimately in tune to what is happening around them, and it also helps them to be forward-thinking. Such awareness is essential in a volatile and changing world that is often characterized by a lack of awareness on the part of organizational leaders who are too consumed with themselves instead of focusing on the needs others.