Effective Leadership Trait 2 – Puts People First

What do highly effective leaders do? They put people first. They help others meet their highest priority development needs. It seems counterintuitive, but the data prove that putting other people first makes an organization more profitable. An effective leader puts people first by:

· Displaying a servant’s heart

· Mentoring

· Showing care and concern

Servant’s Heart: A servant leader cares deeply how their decisions and actions will affect others – they want others to benefit. So they don’t make decisions purely on financial grounds. They realize that for a company to thrive, the communities in which it operates must also thrive. They inherently use a win-win rather than a zero-sum win-lose model for making decisions and operating. Example: the executives of Burgerville volunteer an hour a week reading to local elementary schoolchildren, because they know that if a child is not reading by the 3rd grade, that child is destined for a life of struggle and poverty. In fact, the slogan of Burgerville, a privately-held for profit organization, is “serve with love”. They don’t talk about “customers” – they talk about “guests”.

Mentoring: I was grateful to have a mentor as I was starting my career – he was more than just a “boss”. I would like to have had more mentors as I changed fields and professions. I’ve found that mentoring others is truly rewarding. Even (especially?) if you didn’t have a mentor, becoming one provides benefits to both you and the mentee. It’s a great way to pay it forward. Everybody wins!

Showing Care and Concern: This concept is countercultural, even revolutionary. Competition is so engrained in American culture that we don’t even consider its cost. Competition for the promotion; competition for the raise; competition for the customer. Negotiating to get the best possible deal for me, or for my company. But when we were children, our mothers taught us to care for others; they taught us to share. Every well-established religion has care for others as one of its foundations. Our companies, and our society, cannot survive, let alone thrive, if we do not actively care for others. Care for others expresses itself in win-win, instead of win-lose.

Next week: Skilled Communicator

Comments? Feedback? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Gary Langenwalter

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