When I first wrote, 4 Questions for Servant Leaders, I remembered previous opportunities for taking on jobs others found undesirable. Having been in the manager’s seat, I have had the opportunity to experience the opportunity to assign and receive jobs others felt beneath them. In both situations, the difference maker involved having a fresh attitude, without the baggage of organizational drama of “I have one more thing on my plate.” The fresh attitude enables newcomers in a position to embrace work.
What a gift, right? How do you renew your attitude, renew your spirit so that you can take on undesirable tasks like a newcomer?
The defining question, and one that I keep coming back to reflect on, is “What are the jobs that need doing that no one wants to do?” It’s a question that can define you. Think of actors who carefully say “No” to a million different roles, seeking the perfect one that will make their career. Then, think of the actors who say, “Yes, I’ll do that.” Not only do they bring an attitude of willingness to a job that others dislike, they find a way to excel.
As I’ve gotten older, I find I’m attracted to these actors–several come to mind even now–because viewers get a glimpse into who they are each time they play a part others thought were beneath them. While these bit parts, as some like to call them, are only a small part of the actors’ career, collectively, they represent much more. At the end of their journey, these actors may get a lifetime award, never having had a single role that distinguished them. Or, it is only late in their careers that they find themselves receiving the Oscar or Emmy for the role no one wanted, but that they played masterfully.
That idea of small parts adding up to a career of winning can be eye-opening. A video game my son introduced me to, Clash Royale, suggests the value of persistence in garnering small wins leading to great success.
In the game, you square off another person somewhere on the globe. You marshal your forces to fight and win chests of gold and silver. To win, you must win 2-3 crowns, that is, overcome 2-3 castles your opponent has.
Each day, you can win a gold chest, even though you may win only 1-2 crowns per battle. Eventually, you obtain the 10 crowns you must gather to obtain the gold chest, even if you lose every match but manage to win 1 crown. Persistence is key.
Life lessons abound in this effort to win the gold chest even though you may fail to win in decisive ways. We are all beset by challenges, and some times, we are fortunate enough to escape, having learned but one or two lessons from the experience. If we persist in forward movement, no matter how painstaking, we may yet achieve the prize–a life well-lived, fraught with peril yet victorious because no small measure of wisdom has been earned.
In this blog entry at ReadWriteRespond, the focus is on servant leadership. On doing the job, of giving one’s all for others. This focus on servant leadership plays out within the confines of team leadership. Yet, much of those involved in the bit parts may play the role of follower or supporting roles. They may not be the “servant leader.”
In the end, a solitary leader may be the one who reaches for transcendence, not distinguishing herself in team servitude. Transcendence in this case means gaining wisdom from completing jobs none wanted. For this leader, a person out taking a walk without followers, reaching for the joy of lessons learned, wreathed in failure, growing successfully as a result. I suppose that such a follower isn’t a servant leader, but something else.