Article in Brief: You’ve probably heard, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Well, that’s wrong. Business is personal. This article shares a story to help you better serve your employees, partners and clients through servant leadership.
Servant leadership is an ancient practice. However, the modern movement was born in a 1970 essay by Robert Greenleaf.
In that essay, Greenleaf emphasized that the servant leader was first and foremost a servant. In other words, we are servants who lead, not leaders who serve.
This distinction is huge.
I want to share a story with you that I hope inspires you to better serve your employees, partners and clients.
The CEO & The Surgeon
Years ago, a hospital CEO under my dad’s leadership was struggling with a hardball-playing surgeon.
The surgeon was the hospital’s top revenue producer and knew it. Which made negotiating with him extremely tough.
This is quite common in the healthcare world. Hospitals offer physicians the facilities, tools and multi-departmental support they need, but the physician still calls the shots when it comes to the delivery of care.
This was a situation my dad had dealt with numerous times. He had started out as a pharmacist and worked his way, department by department over many years, to become an award-winning hospital CEO. At the time this story took place, he oversaw hospitals across the southeastern region of the U.S.
So my dad visited the surgeon at his home and quickly discovered that this doctor’s dog was his life. The dog had free reign while they met. Pictures of the dog hung on the walls. Dad spent much of the time talking to the surgeon about his passion for dogs. And the doctor thanked him for taking the time to come to his home.
After talking with the surgeon about his demands and willingness to reach agreement, Dad asked the surgeon how often the hospital CEO visited with him at his medical practice.
Dad asked him if the CEO had ever visited his home.
The only contact the surgeon had with the hospital CEO was when he went to the CEO’s office and demanded a meeting.
Later, dad circled back with the CEO and asked if he ever visited the surgeon at his medical practice.
What about visiting him at his house?
The CEO said he had been to the surgeon’s house.
“What’s his dog’s name?”
Of course, the CEO didn’t know. He didn’t even know the surgeon had a dog.
The surgeon had become a resource to manage, rather than a human being to serve.
We’re Dealing With People, Not Objects
What this story continues to teach me is that we’re always dealing with people.
Not buyer personas.
Real human beings.
A few key takeaways for you, as you serve and lead:
- There is no them. There’s only us.
- Our clients, partners, colleagues and associates are human beings, not objects.
- Silos and ivory towers must be actively sought out and destroyed.
A key role of the servant leader is to be a connective agent.
I encourage you to personally reach out to a client or colleague today. And not by email. Go visit them and show them how much you care.
Image by TheGiantVermin — Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Keith Reynold Jennings is a marketing executive and writer focused on the intersections of servant leadership and modern marketing. Connect through Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook or email him directly.
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