I’ve just finished reading the latest Flipchart Rick piece on the labour market and servants…The concept of service prompted a thought.
I remember going to see Fons Trompenaars speak about ‘Servant Leadership’ a few years ago. Servant Leadership sounds, to some people, quite weak when leaders should do bold, visionary and leaderly things – but the Fons used the following please to give it context
“Serve by leading and lead by serving”
There is lots of chatter about creating meaningful work and it strikes me that in my career I’ve only ever been able to get motivated when ‘serving’ something. That could be a vision or a cause, it could be the needs of a team but it’s always something other than myself. I’ve found meaning working in McDonald’s and meaning working in a bank.
The only place I failed to find meaning was working 2 nights selling double glazing (selling it in the kind of way that would get you a prime spot on Watchdog these days).
Of course in some ways serving is selfish, I only do the service because I know I enjoy the service. It’s a pleasant loop.
If you set an organisation up so that its focus is primarily on people serving themselves then you lose that connection, you lose the bit of organisational soul that they could connect with. You only transact financially. You don’t exchange care. That was obvious with the Banking Crisis. People were conditioned to focus on what was good for them, not the banks or customers.
I think the search for meaning in work isn’t as dramatic or revelationary as it sometimes seems. Most organisations are serving a need or want – you just need to be able to connect to that. It doesn’t need to be sexy knowledge based work for people to find their own voice.
People used to find meaning in serving others, there is nothing shameful in that. There is nothing shameful in service, it doesn’t mean you have to compromise your sense of independence, it means that you are asserting a choice to serve.
Not everything can be on the edge, not everything needs to be extreme, there is still some good work to be done slowly shifting the core.