Servant leadership has become a buzzword in the leadership arena over the last number of years. And I often talk about how leadership is servant work, so I’m not sure why we put the word “servant” in front of the word leadership. Leadership doesn’t occur without serving others, it should just be automatic, otherwise, it isn’t leadership. But to dive just a touch deeper, servant leadership goes beyond serving others, it takes on the perspective of “having the other person’s best interest at heart”.
For me, as a kid growing up in high school and college, and even after, my parents always had my best interests at heart. They served me well, but this kind of servant work didn’t mean that gave me everything I wanted or allowed me to do anything I wanted. They served me by keeping my best interests at heart regardless of how my heartfelt about those best interests. As a not fully matured body, but also not fully matured brain, my ability to make good solid intelligent decisions was not always possible. Whether it was how late I stayed out at night, the music I consumed, how I managed my time for school, the relationship decisions I made or the decisions I made within those relationships, parties to go to, or the speeds and how I drove any vehicle I was in. Always making the right decision was a challenge and virtually impossible given the desire of my brain to push any limit or boundary to test the upper limit of any normal.
The key to achieving profound levels of servant leadership is to walk the extra mile with your people, your kids, whoever that might be needing your sincere, yet maybe even firm and candid help. In the business setting, or with our kids, that servant leadership is similar to the effort and job my parents did for me as an unknowing, boundary-pushing, curious mind for adventure and upper limits kid. And in the AMC Family, as we talk and walk with our people, our servant leadership runs deep. Many other people and organizations may even say our level of deep is intruding and not our business. But you see, when you care for people as deeply as we do, because we are family, and because we truly look out for our people’s best interests at all times, it will result in some uncomfortable conversations, and it will delve into people’s personal lives. Because we are here to help, we are here to walk with our people not only the extra mile but walk with them the whole way! And in many immature minds, they fall back to what many kids say about parents being parents, “They are trying to control me!” And the answer is a profound “NO!” We as leaders and as parents aren’t trying to control anyone! What we are trying to do is help our kids and our people in the life decision-making process, always and firmly keeping your best interests at heart. An immature mind who often can’t protect their own heart will call it “control” and a mature mind will call it “keeping your best interests at heart”.
As parents and as leaders, we must be vocal about our love for our people and our kids and help them better understand this. And to be unclear about this is to be unkind. In the heat of the battle, in the heat of the argument with your kids, in the heat of the meeting with someone on your team, tell them, “We aren’t trying to control you. What we are trying to do is keep your best interests at heart. We want what is best for you, and I like you, didn’t always know what was best for myself at that age. We love you greatly and are here to walk this journey with you!”
The beauty of keeping their best interests at heart and walking with them in their journey is those that truly want what is best for themselves will see through the fog of their journey and the buffet of poor opportunities of life, and will slowly realize your perceived control was truly love, wholeheartedly for them. It will be painful along the way, they may push you away, but don’t go away. Stay steadfast in their best interest, continue conversations, and be diligent with your love. But understand, with your team members, you will keep some and lose some. Stand convicted on your core values and morals. And with your kids, we pray you never lose any!