Lead People by Serving Them
As a college student I had no idea what leadership looked like. I never gave it much thought. But in the summer of 1995, while working for a sports camp in Missouri, I would find out. That lesson has shaped what Credera is today.
We arrived at camp to find fallen retaining walls, dirty cabins and washed out trails. Winter had taken its toll. Our job as counselors was to spend the first two weeks of the summer cleaning up the camp.
This became the most significant two weeks of my life. For the first time I began to understand what real leadership looked like.
In the middle of raking leaves I looked up and to my left saw the CEO of the camp, standing with us, raking leaves. The CEO, Joe, had to be at least twice my age and seemed to rake at twice my pace.
A few days later we were shoveling gravel. There was Joe again, shoveling gravel much faster than the rest of us.
Then there were the railroad ties. Weather treated railroad ties are unbelievably heavy. But Joe would pick one up, hoist it onto someone’s back and turn to grab another one. He outworked me.
But that wasn’t all. Everyone at camp wanted to spend time with Joe. He cared for people in remarkable ways. He made time to talk with us about important topics. He had our respect because he worked hard, listened to us, and cared for us. Never had I seen a leader work alongside and care for his people so well.
My friend, David, was a leader at the camp who worked closely with Joe on a daily basis. Every day Joe brought lunch to David and his wife. Joe would find out what they wanted for lunch, go get it, bring it to their cabin and act as their server. Summer is the busiest time of the year for a summer camp. Yet every day, all summer long, the CEO would serve lunch in a private tucked away cabin to a married couple he cared about. This is one of many examples of how Joe would demonstrate his love for those who worked for him.
Give Yourself Away
I tend to learn best when principles are modeled out in day-to-day life. I saw Joe’s model of servant-leadership lived out over three separate summers at the camp. Over time I wanted to emulate that behavior.
My last summer was my best summer. I was physically exhausted, but not tired. I don’t know how to explain it. I gave the kids everything I had. Rich relationships were formed and it was awesome.
It is amazing what happens when someone gives themselves away for the benefit of others. I love the quote from Jesus of Nazareth, when he said “Greater love has no one than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus is the best example of servant-leadership I have ever read about. And his model of servant-leadership changed the world.
People who change the world seem to have one thing in common: they serve.
Our Leaders Serve
In the corporate world I don’t see much evidence of servant leadership. This made us think we could do things differently when we started Credera. What would happen if we served one another and our clients with the same passion and commitment we had seen demonstrated by others?
We have an expectation for our leaders at Credera. They serve. Our best leaders share this characteristic. They have forgotten about themselves, their agendas, their careers, etc., and are doing whatever they can to help their clients and colleagues.
We have a tendency to become like what we surround ourselves with. When I saw a guy like Joe leading, he made me want to be a better leader. Servant-leadership is contagious. I hope you have a chance to work with people like Joe. The way people like Joe have lived their lives has influenced me and changed my life for the better.