Quick Take – Servant Leadership

Servant leaders will never get the credit they deserve.

Servant leaders work to get the job done, as all leaders do, and they work to support and grow the capacity and capability of their team.

If servant leaders are effective, their teams become stronger, more resilient, and they feel that their success is due to their own effort and hard work.

There is a quote that I haven’t been able to accurately source that sums this up very well. It is attributed to Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching. Translations vary1 but the core of it is this:

The worst leader is one who is feared. The good leader is one who is celebrated. The greatest leader works so that when success occurs, the people will say, ‘We did it all by ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

Whether the quote is accurately translated or interpreted, its core message is that the highest form of leadership is centered on those who are led.

When someone acts as a true servant leader, the individuals being led feel that their successes are due to themselves, rather than the leader.

Servant leaders will never get the credit they deserve. And this is an inescapable truth of servant leadership.

If you are a successful servant leader, then by definition you will not get the credit, the team will. This can be difficult to accept in cultures that prize individual achievement and believe that the leader, rather than the team creates the success.

Therefore, the irony is that if you are not getting the recognition you feel you deserve as a servant leader, that can be evidence of your effectiveness.

And even if the powers-that-be don’t fully recognize your contribution, know that there are other servant leaders out there who see it clearly and appreciate it.

Servant leaders, thank you for what you do.

  1. An example. Many variations on the quote. Another variation. Another example, showing chapter 17 as the source. . ↩︎