Cynicism & The Servant Leader – why are people obsessed with “the hidden agenda”?

by Mark Doornbosch

I’m curious; why do employees within organizations that have or practice servant leadership have a hard time believing it’s possible that a company or manager could care and invest in their personal success?  They allow their inner voice to look for the “the hidden agenda”; “Why do they care?”, “What’s in it for them?”, “Are they setting me up to fail so they can get rid of me?”, “They’re just going to take credit for my work anyway.”, “I just don’t get it.”

I have personal experience with this reaction, having practiced servant leadership for years.  From direct reports, staff members, peers and even at the executive level, I’ve even been told that, in their professional careers, they’ve never encountered this style of leadership.  How can this be?  What part of this leadership style makes people uncomfortable?  My conclusions are that the company and leadership care about the individual at a personal level; not just the job, but also the person.  And, by practicing true servant leadership, one is held personally accountable to reach their highest individual potential within a professionally nurturing environment.  The servant leader has no hidden agendas.  The servant leader is not trying to get anything out of individual except the very best they can possible be.  The servant leader will listen intently, tries not to judge, looks for solutions rather blame, asks for input then actually uses it, asks questions for understanding, gives credit, allows failure without consequences, seeks out and watches for teachable moments, and holds direct reports to a higher level of accountability – personal accountability.

One of the MarketSource core values is “serving others”.  Our philosophy is “whenever, wherever, whatever you need, I’ll be there.”  We’ve seen this value demonstrated time and time again often without recognition or fanfare.  People at MarketSource care; they care about the company, they care about the clients, and just as important, they care about each other.  It’s a special place to be.  Do we succeed all the time? Well no, but at the same time we strive to the best leaders we can be.  But what if you are not currently in a leadership position?  It does not matter where you are in your career, you can lead from any position at any level within the organization.  As an individual, you should realize that not everything you do will be recognized – but everything you do has consequences.  Accepting personal accountability goes well beyond the job.  What you do and who you are when no one is looking is the truest measure of accountability.  As a “leader at any level,” you can offer open and honest feedback while watching for opportunities to help a friend, a peer or even your direct manager become better at what they do without the expectation of something in return.

I welcome your comments.  Do you have an example of when you encountered a servant leader?  Or, why do you think employee cynicism exists related to servant leadership?  In future posts, we will look at the other MarketSource core values: open communication, work ethic, and relationships.

If you’d like to learn more about servant leadership check-out these books:

“The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader “by James C. Hunter

“The Servant Leader: Unleashing the Power of Your People” by Robert P. Neuschel

Topic: Core Values

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a Retail Practice Leader at MarketSource, Mark works with national brands focused on retail distribution to execute their field-marketing plans. The MarketSource message is simple; we help you sell more, faster. As the self-proclaimed Retail Sales Sensei and Master of Marketing Zen, Mark can be reached via LinkedIn or through the MarketSource sales concierge.

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