The “Leadership Is Not” Series

I recently completed a series of posts that focused on highlighting what leadership is not, while also explaining what true leadership is and how great leaders demonstrate these qualities. Too many people have a misconception about leadership, so I believe it’s vital to dispel some of these leadership myths and get down to the basics of what actually makes a great leader.

In case you missed any of these posts, they are each listed below for your convenience:

Leadership Is Not Position

Leadership Is Not Talk

Leadership Is Not Pretentious

Leadership Is Not About Promoting Self

Leadership Is Not About Being Served

I hope these thoughts will both encourage and challenge you to be a better leader. Even though I wrote these posts, I’m challenged by them everyday.

Leadership Is Not About Being Served

Here is a question to consider … what do you think would happen if you considered yourself the “Chief Servant Officer” of your organization instead of your current title? Imagine how this perspective might impact the way you view your team and your role. Thinking of yourself as a servant first changes not only how you think and act, but also how you view your role as a leader.

Many leaders struggle with this idea of “serving” because it feels beneath them, and it challenges many of the preconceived ideas they have about leadership. I believe that the primary reason leaders struggle with serving is due to one key thing: the heart.

How you lead outwardly is a direct reflection of how you feel about others inwardly…

– Do you care about people?
– Do you desire to do good and make a positive difference?
– Do you want to see others succeed?
– Do you believe that people should be treated with dignity and respect?
– Do you want to lead a team that works together and encourages one another?


– Are you uncaring toward others?
– Are you more concerned with the bottom line than doing the right thing?
– Are you focused only on your success?
– Are you treating people in a way that is disrespectful and undignified?
– Are you creating an environment of dissension and discouragement?

I don’t know one leader who would be ok with answering ‘yes’ to the second set of questions. However, we often deceive ourselves into believing we never act this way. The reality is, if we’re not careful, we can easily become blind to our actions, resulting in behavior that is much more self-serving than serving.

In order to help overcome this tendency to be self-serving, ask yourself the following question on a regular basis, especially when dealing with people and going about your day-to-day tasks:

“What is the attitude of my heart in this situation or toward this person?”

Asking this question consistently will change the way you lead others. It will help you become more serving and less self-serving in your actions. Leadership is a heart issue, but if you never examine your heart, you will never lead from the heart.

When your heart gets right, your thinking gets right.

When your thinking gets right, your actions get right.

When your actions get right, your leadership gets right.

Relevant Quotes:

“Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance.” -J. Donald Walters

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Servant leaders are intentional about placing the needs of others and the success of the organization before their own.” -Jeremy Couch

Thoughts on Servant Leadership from an NFL Head Coach

Recently, I was preparing for a talk on servant leadership, and I was looking for some videos that would help drive home the points I was highlighting. Upon searching for short but substantive clips, I came across this video of Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh speaking on servant leadership. This was the first time I’ve ever heard Harbaugh talk on the subject, but I have to say that he speaks with clarity about the role of a leader. Regardless of whether or not you are a Ravens or Harbaugh fan, there are some great reminders in this clip.

Here are a few of the key takeaways:

  • Leadership is about doing whatever you can to help others be their best.
  • As a leader, you need to find out who you need to be helping.
  • Four powerful words a leader should ask: “What do you think?”
  • You have to empower the people around you and believe in them.
  • Check your own heart. Ask yourself, “Where’s my heart on this?”
  • If you really want someone to feel that you care about them, the best way to do that is to actually care about them.

Although this video is presented in the context of a football team, the principles can be applied to any organization. You can watch the clip below:

If You Left, Would Anyone Care?

If you announced your resignation today, how would people in the organization react? Chances are, they would experience one of the following three emotions:


If they are sad, it’s probably because you are genuinely a good person, you have provided significant contributions to the organization, and you have invested in the lives of the people with whom you work. You have put the needs of others and the success of the organization before your own. Most likely, you have consistently demonstrated the attitude of a servant. Bottom line—people are happy for you, but they are also sad to see you go.


If they are indifferent, then you did not do much to build relationships, but you also did not do much to strain relationships. While you may have been a great contributor to the organization, you missed out on the opportunity to develop meaningful and lasting relationships with others. As a result, people are left with a feeling of apathy about your leaving. Bottom line—you did your job but did not connect relationally.


If they are jubilant, then you have clearly done something to burn bridges, strain relationships, and possibly even scorch the earth around you. Basically, people did not in any way enjoy working with you and felt like you were a detriment to the organization. Morale was lower when you were around, and people were probably walking on eggshells around you because they never knew how you were going to react. Bottom line—people have been dreaming of this day for years.


What is the purpose of this post? To get you thinking about how you are currently viewed within your organization. Know this: how people view you is a direct reflection of how you treat them.

Decide today what kind of legacy you want to leave at work. You will spend most of your waking hours there. Make the most of it and positively impact the people with whom you work.

Focus on the needs of others instead of being self-serving.

Have an attitude that attracts others to you and makes them want to be around you.

Bring out the best in others.

Be a servant.

In the end, people will be sad to see you go, but they will celebrate because of the person you are, the lives you touched, and the lasting impact you made. That is a legacy we should all strive for at work and in life.

Servant Leaders Are Courageous

I believe that in order to be a true servant leader, you must demonstrate courage in the way that you lead yourself and others. In my most recent post for Lead Like Jesus, I discuss this concept and explain why it is so essential for effective leadership in any setting.

You can read my latest post by clicking HERE. Enjoy!