Thursday, March 17, 2011

Servant Leadership Practice--Zeal

"A pack can only run as fast as the horse in the lead."

I left a company when I was no longer excited about what we were doing. I was proud of the company's accomplishments and the way the team used its talent. However, I wasn't energized by the work. I wouldn't be excited by executing the mission, nor did it seem to be one that I needed to be a part of. What the company did was important to its customers. It wasn't important to me.

I had lost my zeal, and I was dragging the organization. I was no longer a lead horse, speeding ahead, looking for green prairies and plains of tall grass. I was an anchor, keeping the ship from its treasured lands.

Because the team is important to me, what was important to them was important for me. I did my work, but I wasn't leading. I had enthusiasm for certain aspects, where I could see the benefits to the people close by.

Today, I have a passion because I lead the team by letting them know that what they do changes lives. I talk as if I'm the second mason in medieval times: the first says he's carving a stone, the second says he's building a cathedral. (If you see the movie "Waste Land", the leaders of the catedores--garbage pickers in Rio de Janeiro--and the landfill manager see the bigger picture. They try to inspire their group by sharing how worthwhile their dirty, dangerous job is; they reduce the amount of garbage by 40% due to recycling, and save space in the landfill.) We know why we're doing what we do and why it's important to others. We know that if we fail, others will suffer in some way: emotionally, financially, physically. We know they are relying on us to do our best. Once, when walking through the factory floor, an assembler shared a struggle with one of the parts. I asked if she knew what the part was for. She did not. I explained that this part was used in surgery. She perked up, and put more heart into it, and found the required patience to deal with the difficulty.

This aspect of leadership could be cheerleading, with empty chants of "Defense! Defense!" or "Quality! Quality!". The energy has to come from a real place, real and specific knowledge of what we're doing, and why we're doing it.

Find the passion in your gut for what you're doing and share that with another today. See the vision of where your staff can be and get them excited about getting there. Don't flag or you'll be in the way. Be persistent. They need you to speed them along.

For C12 and Truth@Work members, think about how zeal needs to have knowledge. Proverbs 19.2 says, "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way." The legendary story of Yogi Berra, trying to get to the stadium, said, "We're lost but we're making good time." Similarly, Paul talks about the Israelites this way in Romans 10: "They are zealous for God but their zeal is not based on knowledge." Where's your company's destination, and how are you getting there? Have you told others recently? Are you excited by it? Are you excited about what can happen, but grabbing at every strategy you can? As many people have said, "As long as the money's green, I don't care how I get it." This passion is just for wealth; it's not a mission or vision for your company. Be clear about what you need to be doing. And then be zealous for it--energized and jealous against any distractions.

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