I’m not sure how many of you are aware of a concept called servant leadership. (Thank you, Wikipedia, for a concise summary.)
I’d like to post this relevant quote:
A servant leader is someone who is servant first, who has responsibility to be in the world, and so he contributes to the well-being of people and community. A servant leader looks to the needs of the people and asks himself how he can help them to solve problems and promote personal development. He places his main focus on people, because only content and motivated people are able to reach their targets and to fulfill the set expectations.
This is the management style that my workplace tries to teach all of its administrators. My job as an administrator is to work with my people and to help solve their problems so that they can do the work they need to do. It’s to believe in the philosophy of our college, and do what we can to help the people at our college reach both their potential and the philosophies of our college.
Sometimes when you are a servant leader, you have to suck it up. Even if you have an employee who is difficult or problematic from time to time, you need to work with that employee to solve the problem and help them work to their potential. And if you disagree with an employee, you listen. If you don’t know something, you learn it, so you can understand better. You open your mind and you listen. If you disagree, you explain, but you don’t dismiss. If you can’t do something because of company policy, you explain, but you don’t dismiss.
You never dismiss. This is a very, very important point.
Working at Kirkwood has been a great training ground for being on the board of Mindbridge, our organization that puts on SF conventions in Iowa. On the Mindbridge Board are also disparate opinions. Many of those people have the same goals, but radically different ideas about how to achieve them. Sometimes they see these oppositions as insurmountable. My job as a board head is to listen, to encourage compromise. You open your mind and listen. You don’t dismiss. Leaders have to do the hard work of not only managing people, but also respecting people.
Recently, a candidate for SFWA vice-president responded in a very poor way to another SFWA member who was offended by insensitivity in his opening platform. How to handle the situation? Someone who is going to be vice-president needs to open his mind and listen. If a potential leader closes ranks and is mostly concerned about criticizing an opposing viewpoint because it is not his, that’s a bad sign. Minimization is not a good sign. Unwillingness to explore unfamiliarity is a bad sign. Things to keep in mind now and in the future.
Because everyone in your organization teaches and adds to the strength of the organization. Open your mind and listen. Don’t dismiss. Defensive, self-centered leadership never help an organization reach its potential. Servant leadership is not easy, but it’s worth the work.