Why Care, Compassion, and Accountability Are Engaging
I’m always reflecting upon service. It’s always been a big part of my life. I started out in the “service industry” at 16, and never, really, ever looked back.
What I’ve been reflecting upon even more recently, is just how important service is in, well, everything we do. It’s not just about the work we do, in the professional sense.
It’s more about all of the work we do. All of it. And, it starts with each of us, and how we take care of and, in effect, serve ourselves. Really.
I was telling a colleague of mine today, as they prepared to train a group of local leadership, that in order to hold other people accountable, we must first hold ourselves accountable. It’s how it works.
Something this colleague knows very well indeed.
And, as was aforementioned, service is no exception to this rule. In order to serve others, we must first learn to serve ourselves.
We are all looking for places to serve. Places where we can make a difference, where we can be a part of something larger than ourselves. A paradox? Yep.
Because in order to be a part of something larger than yourself, you must first be in touch with yourself, know yourself, treat yourself with love and kindness, and hold yourself accountable to a standard.
A standard that is engaged with and committed to creating and effecting change. Changing that which we know, the status quo, with something, well, quite different.
Within this possibility, there are innumerable opportunities to serve. Fun.
Alright, ready? Good. Here we go.
I’ve written a couple of articles about servant leadership, which includes, The Blog + Video Series #14: Servant Leadership: A Practical Leadership Style for Life and Work.
The basic tenant of servant leadership is that service is paramount to leadership as a philosophy and a practice. Both.
That to lead, we must lead from a perspective that fully understands that nothing happens without the entire team; and, that, it is because of each team members contribution to the team that movement and traction are even possible.
Servant leadership upends the traditional leadership hierarchy, putting the needs of front-line workers first. Important.
And, as we’ve already discussed, servant leadership is, both conceptually and practically, a leadership style that works for all aspects of life.
When we take care of ourselves and lead from within, we can then take care of others and lead from without. If not, well, true leadership of any kind is impossible.
Sometimes there is confusion about servant leadership.
Meaning that people sometimes connect servant leadership to a laissez faire type context. And, servant leadership both conceptually and practically is far from that type of context.
In fact, a servant leadership context will often be full of standards and expectations that are higher than other leadership contexts. Yep. Common. Why?
Well, inside of serving, as was aforementioned, is the need to create change. Creating new possibilities, new ways of communicating, new ways of, well, doing most things.
When you create a context that is committed to changing the status quo, no matter how small or large that change is, there have to be higher standards and expectations.
And, in some cases, the highest standard must be demanded. Why?
Because there is so much more to accomplish. That’s it really. More work, more movement, more traction, more change. Amazing.
And, where there is change and innovation of this magnitude, there must be great care, compassion, and accountability, both for the self, the team, and the organization. And, yep, for the nation, and the world too.
What is engagement, really? When you think about that word, what do you see, or think about? Hm.
For me, I think about contexts that are brimming with challenges and difficulties, yep, and celebrations. Why?
Because when you are truly engaged with yourself, and the people around you, you will experience both. You have to.
Being engaged, is living a full life, and the giving out of that life to everyone around you. It is extremely fun and rewarding and, yep, also difficult.
All service, regardless of the context, professional or personal, requires determination, persistence, and resilience. Oh, and great care. Yep.
When you are engaged, you care. Simple. Oftentimes, people get confused and think that when things are difficult that there is a problem. A paradox? Yep.
When things are difficult, you are engaged, you are doing, and you are creating. No problem here.
When are there problems?
Well, if you subscribe to notions of problems, then the only time there are real problems is when there is disengagement. Where things are easy, moving simply, no speed bumps. Why?
Because, if there are no issues, nothing to overcome, then, nothing is really happening. Yep.
Now, that’s not really a problem either. Not really.
It’s only a problem if you are looking to be engaged. I always know when I am most engaged at work or in my life. How?
Because there is always, and I mean always, something to celebrate, and something to overcome. A challenge, always.
These engaging contexts also require, as was aforementioned, great care. Really. Why?
Because when you are fully engaged, and are working through issues that arise, care about all things and everyone, yourself, and all those around you, is always there.
And, that is because you are going through something.
You are developing, iterating, and, yep, in some cases, even transforming. Beautiful.
Because a servant leadership context is a highly engaging one, where people will bring their all every day, compassion is also required.
Compassion for yourself, for how very, very hard it is sometimes, and for those around you. Sometimes, people will decide it’s just too much, and that is okay.
There was a time when I desperately wanted everyone to stay. And, I would coach people endlessly to this end. No pun intended.
Yet, a servant leadership context is not what everyone is looking for, and that is also okay. Knowing this releases you and everyone else from an obligation that truly doesn’t exist.
And, practicing compassion is what that looks like. Understanding that people will leave. And, guess what?
It’s better for them to do so.
Better to find a context that suits them more, feels better to them, and will in the long run be much more beneficial for them. Important.
One of the most paradoxical aspects of servant leadership is in the area of accountability. And, there was a time where accountability within a servant leadership paradigm also confused me.
The bottom line?
Accountability matters. People actually want to be held accountable to a higher standard. Knowing that their work and service, whatever it is, is making a change in the world.
Again, no matter how small or large that change is, matters much less, than that people get to participate in something that, yes, inspires them, and, even more importantly, actively creates change in the world. Fun.
It is a ton of work. Yep. Yet, who ever said that life was supposed to be easy?
I know. That is such a cliche, and yet it does work here.
Think about any change, nay, think about some of the largest institutional and cultural changes of all time. Now, answer this question.
Were they easy?
Nope, not a single one. They are not supposed to be. Therefore, having a high standard and instituting accountability is not only needed, it is also positively reinforcing the servant leadership context that has been created. How?
Because serving yourself, setting the highest standard for yourself that you can, means that you will also set that same standard for the people around you. And?
They will rise to meet it, just as you are.
For more on Servant Leadership check out these resources.