Foundational Question of 21st Century Leadership – Part 2
Yesterday, we shared the first part of this blog from our guest James Strock. Jim is an author and practitioner who has a keen ability to leverage history and current events to make sense of the changes influencing management and leadership. Enjoy Jim’s concluding post. Oh, including Steve Job’s quote again, is important for this post.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. –Steve Jobs.
Who Are You Serving?
My book Serve to Lead is a manual for navigating the new world of 21st century leadership. It lays out how notions of service and leadership are merging, not only in a theoretical sense, but in the most practical, workaday settings.
The thought process occasioned by the bottom-line focus of the CEO quoted above, has been encapsulated within one question: Who Are You Serving?
Every issue and challenge of leadership, including management and communication, can be analyzed through the prism of this one question.
Any leadership issue, without exception.
What’s in the Words?
The question can be used to focus one’s attention on one’s own attitudes or behavior—or those of others. It can be a source of inspiration or instruction. Or it can be a vessel of accountability.
It could have been worded several ways. Various formulations were considered and tested with audiences:
Whom Do You/I Serve? This is the familiar Biblical formulation. That is an advantage as well as a limitation. Though the 21st century context points toward the merger of spiritual and practical, Serve to Lead is not presented as a religious formulation.
Whom Are You/I Serving? The grammatical distinction of “who” and “whom” is being effaced. In England—always a good source of English language trends—the distinction is increasingly ignored. It seems the better part of a service orientation to speak as people are speaking.
Who Am I Serving? To the extent one is addressing oneself, this can work, though it does not automatically point to a broader formulation, as does Who Are You Serving?
The Four Questions of 21st Century Leadership
Experiment with asking yourself—and challenging others—with the question: Who Are You Serving? It may change your habits of thought and your customary actions and responses in many situations.
You may also move forward with the succeeding Serve to Lead questions:
- How Can You Best Serve?
- Are You Making Your Unique Contribution?
- Are You Getting Better Every Day? (or, Are You Better Today Than Yesterday?)
The enforced simplicity and resulting clarity from these challenges—a laser focus on serving others effectively, from their point of view—can help you transform your work and life into a masterpiece of service.
Copyright (c) 2012, James M. Strock
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Graphic by Shawn Murphy