Very often when servant leaders like Mahatma Ghandi and Mother Theresa are highlighted, my seminar participants will point out that these leaders addressed huge issues affecting all of humanity. “I’m at the bottom of the pecking order,” they will say. Meaning that they do not have the same reach and influence as a Ghandi. They do not want to change the world. They only want to change their workplace.
My response? Begin where you are. Every one of us, no matter what our station in life, if we are working from an authentic perspective of service, can become a servant leader and have a tremendous positive influence. Fons Trompenaars, writing in Servant Leadership Across Cultures, suggested that servant leadership is a return to the basics of leadership when leaders ask, “What do people need and what can I do to make sure they get it?” One answer, a simple heartfelt word of encouragement to a discouraged colleague, holds tremendous potential for fulfilling Robert Greenleaf’s “best test” of a servant leader: “Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”