To serve is to lead

November 2, 2007
By: Dan Davis

Piccadilly Restaurants are a chain of restaurants that started out in Baton Rouge, La. The chain now has locations all over the Southeast, but to be honest, I haven"t eaten at one since the early 1990s when I made the move to the Chicago area.

After spending a week at leadership training, the thought of the restaurant jumped into my head. When I visited the
Piccadilly cafeteria-style restaurants as a kid, the servers would always greet you with Hello, how may I serve
you? That"s basically what the leadership training reinforced.

More specifically, the training focused on the difference between management and leadership. In short, you manage
things and you lead people.

The book The Servant by James C. Hunter provides a good explanation of what leadership means. Leadership is the skill of influencing people to work enthusiastically toward goals identified as being for the common good. Good leaders are able to generate this buy-in from followers with authority, which Hunter describes as the skill of getting people to willingly do your will because of your personal influence.

Some people may think that power is the means to get things done, but that is only a temporary solution. A manager may be in a position to make someone do something, but do you think that employee will be prone to working toward the greater good after a few of his or her manager"s power trips? Probably not.

Here are some other differences between managers and leaders:

  • A manager sets goals. A leader creates and shares vision.

  • A manager establishes rules and procedures. A leader defines reality.

  • A manager creates efficiencies. A leader aligns the organization.

  • A manager motivates by consequences. A leader creates an enriching, rewarding environment.

Sure its sounds like the leader has his head in the clouds. But someone needs to take the 50,000-foot view sometimes. Otherwise, you are stuck with a bunch of people trying to keep the boat flating and no one sees the iceberg on the horizon.

The more I look at the characteristics of a leader, the more I realize that they are people who serve thei employees. They get them the tools to do the job, provide the mentoring when it is needed, and touch base with them when things aren"t OK. These are the people I enjoy working for the most. In essence, I am being led without realizing it.

The good thing about leadership is that it"s a learned skill, so say the course providers and the author of The Servant. I won"t provide a plan to get there because, frankly, I"m still working on some things. But it may be worthwhile to investigate if you find yourself questioning your role in your organization.

However, you may find that you are already exhibiting many of the leadership qualities that others lack. Think about it: Who would have thought that a lady with a hairnet and a big spoonful of sweet potatoes would have the secret to leadership?

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281