Leadership is often linked to a position within an organization. The trouble with this notion is that we can sit and wait for the leader to act, rather than taking a leadership role ourselves. A leadership attribute which can be viewed as outside of a position, but important for anyone who aspires to become a leader, is one of interpersonal influence. Positive interpersonal influence is something we can assign to ourselves in our dealings with others. In short, when we take the initiative to build strong interpersonal relationships within the workplace we begin to act as leaders. Three prized principles underpin our ability to influence in a positive way include: simplicity, humbleness and authentic service. These are also fundamental principles underlying the qualities so widely discussed in the literature regarding Servant Leadership.
Simplicity: Simplicity is about making the complex understandable in a way that is genuine and without pretence. They say a mark of a genius is one who boils down that which is complicated and makes it simple for us to understand. The genius of Einstein was his ability to take the concept of relativity and express it in a simple formula. The genius of Job was to simplify digital devices so that everyone can use them. The genius of great spiritual leaders is to reduce religious complexity to something as simple as love, forgiveness and compassion.
So how can we use the principle of simplicity in the workplace? Here are three suggestions:
Humility: Simplicity begs for humility. We can be boastful and arrogant about how simple we have made or explained things, or we can do so in a way that keeps our self-inflating ego in check. The principle of humility embodies an unpretentious way of presenting ourselves with quiet confidence. In a way, humility has less to do with confidence then it has to do with reducing a sense of being self-righteous. Most humble people I know are confident and can express themselves without bragging or exuding self-conceit.
Sometimes we don’t want to act humbly because we are afraid others may perceive us as weak or vulnerable. Yet, precisely by admitting our weakness and showing our vulnerability we are acting with strength and courage.
There are many ways in which we can express the principle of humility in the workplace. Here are three:
Authentic Service: The term service is used to denote everything from a religious ceremony to a fee for completed work. I use the term here as an action of helping or doing work for someone. It means providing, rendering or giving something to someone. To provide service should be the real stuff around which our work revolves such as helping our customers, colleagues and those who pay us.
The key to service is not so much about what we do but more about how we do it - it is more about our attitude. Certainly this is not to down play the substance of what we do as the actual work we do is critically important. It is about how we approach that work. We can approach it with authenticity, optimism, helpfulness, and kindness. Or, we can approach it mechanically devoid of feeling - as something we “have to do” in order to get a paycheque.
Here are Three easy actions we can do to improve our service to others:
Once we recognize and accept that we benefit immensely by striving for simplicity, humility and service, our attitude towards others change.
Author: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC