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By Kyle DeFur | Aug. 23, 2017

A Leader Serves – A Servant Leadership Perspective from Kyle DeFur

A number of years ago, in the early formative days of my healthcare career, I was working in a hospital and eating lunch in the hospital cafeteria with some co-workers. The hospital was holding its annual United Way Campaign and had created a number of incentives to give whereby if you donated, you became eligible for a long list of prizes that would be drawn at the conclusion of the campaign. One of my fellow employees at the table made a comment, something to the effect that the notion of incentivizing people to give seems wrong. He asked, why don’t we just ask people to give because they care about making things better for others, rather than turning the motivation to give upside down, or to give for personal gain?  I remember thinking that he was over reacting or he was making too much out of some simple incentives to encourage people to be generous. But I also knew, deep down, that there was truth in the point he was making.

Giving to get is not new. It’s commonplace in the language we use in business and life. “Networking” is often thought of as making connections for the purpose of getting some new business, or other personal benefit, out of the relationship. Is that wrong? Maybe not, but there is a greater good when we give because we want to live our lives in a way that is not all about me.

One of the questions I often ask when interviewing a person for a leadership position is, “Why do you want to be in leadership?” Is leadership about the title, money, power, social status, or designated parking spaces? Or is leadership an opportunity to further an organization’s mission and make a difference in the lives of others? Don’t get me wrong, we all have egos and we want to do well in our lives and on our jobs but what is at the core of “why” you want to be in a position of leadership?

I recently did a trueU Leadership Insights podcast with Doug and Zach Bawel. Doug is the Chairman and CEO and Zach is the President and COO of trueU Member Company, Jasper Engines and Transmissions. Doug shared a story of running into a Jasper Employee at a video rental store. Doug referred to the fellow employee as “co-worker” during their interaction. The fellow employee’s wife was present and she shared how impressed she was that he used the term “co-worker” when referring to the fellow employee. Doug didn’t think much about it at the time but it was interesting how unique the employee’s spouse found it that Doug saw himself more as a co-worker than as a boss. Doug and Zach both see themselves as serving their employees and working right alongside them to further the mission of the organization. They don’t just talk about it, they do it.

trueU Member Company, Home Bank CEO, Dan Moore recently shared with me about an award they created this year in honor of one of their staff, “The Chris Gill Award”. Chris works in the Loan Service Department at the Bank. For over 20 years she has gone about raising money for the Relay for Life Walk, benefiting cancer research and survivorship. She does it quietly and humbly. She doesn’t show up anywhere on the organizational chart but Dan sees Chris as the “core” of our organization. Her humble approach inspires others. Starting this year, each year a group of community leaders will identify a leader that represents what Chris Gill represents as a leader, a quiet, servant leader. Per Dan, “we don’t tend to recognize the Chris Gills of the world. She’s been a game changer in our organization and our community.” Chris’ type of leadership is the type of leadership Home Bank seeks to celebrate, that which is focused on supporting others.

I don’t think it is wrong to throw out some incentives to encourage people to be generous for a good cause. But I do think there is a longing in our culture today for leaders who will intentionally and willingly act in the best interest of others because they care about their wellbeing. Lots of grandstanding and beating of chests these days when what we really want and need are more Chris Gills.