Service is a transformative life value. It is a fundamental pillar that inspires us to pursue a life filled with purpose and create more meaningful connections along the way. This value cultivates teamwork, empowers others, and revolutionizes office culture.
Often, we tend to think of service in vague and generic terms. For example, as a member of the Army, I know that I’m proud to serve my country. While this is a positive thing, it doesn’t capture the essence of service in a specific way I that can transfer over to the rest of my day-to-day life.
Douglas Conant took Campbell Soup, a company that was losing money, and managed to turn it into a profitable and successful empire. Conant attributes his success not to conventional business ideas such as marketing, accounting, or production; instead, he adopted intentional leadership strategies which led to essential changes in the organizational culture. He attributes his intentional leadership style to the principle of touchpoints, which he elaborates on in his book, Touchpoints, published in 2011.
Touchpoints are the smallest interactions we have with others, moments that seem inconsequential but are actually very significant. We experience them with our subordinates, peers, and superiors.
Often, when we are deeply engrossed in a project, we enter a state of flow — we are completely absorbed in our work, highly productive, and achieve a great deal.
Suddenly, the trance is broken as someone interrupts us, whether it be to ask a question or ask for help with something. Their disruption completely threw off our productivity and knocked us out of the flow state. Annoyance kicks in as we struggle to find our momentum again.
This is an example of a touchpoint. At this moment, we have a choice. We can either choose to react by expressing our annoyance through our tone of voice or body language to let people know how frustrated we are at being interrupted, or we can choose a different path — the path of service. If we choose to react on our immediate impulse, there will be negative consequences. We’ll make the other person feel as if they’re not a valued member of the team. This in turn hurts the culture of our organization.
Instead, however, we can choose a more positive approach: to engage with an attitude for service.
Recently, I found myself with a new boss. The previous commander moved on, and a new one came in to take the helm. When I work with him, I do my best to treat him with the utmost respect and deference, trying to establish myself as a reliable team player.
However, I’ve come to realize that by embracing service as a core value, we can create a society without a hierarchical rank. In other words, no matter a person’s status, whether they are our boss, a colleague, or a subordinate, if they ask for our help we should choose to serve them with the same level of support and commitment to teamwork.
In the military, it’s common for young, inexperienced leaders to believe that the key to effective leadership is to portray their strength. They often act as a stern disciplinarian, and if you don’t show the proper respect for their authority, the smallest infraction will be harshly punished.
Unfortunately, these leaders fail to understand the damage they are doing to the culture of the workplace. Their subordinates secretly wish their leader will fail even despite the fact the team will also suffer. There is no loyalty to the team, and these individuals long for the day that their contract expires so they can quit and return home.
I recently had the opportunity to witness a truly remarkable display of leadership through the actions of my friend, Andrew. Andrew epitomized servant-focused leadership, standing out from the common approach adopted by many leaders. When one of his team members faced a daunting challenge and exhibited a negative attitude, most leaders would have resorted to scolding. However, Andrew took a different path. He decided to tackle the situation with empathy and understanding.
Instead of reprimanding his team member, Andrew actively engaged in the task alongside him. By joining forces, he not only provided practical assistance but also offered continuous encouragement, expressing genuine pride in the team member’s determination and resilience. Furthermore, Andrew took it a step further by taking the time to sit down with the team member after the event. In a compassionate manner, he inquired about any personal issues that might be affecting him outside of work. Andrew wanted to grasp the bigger picture, seeking to provide unwavering support beyond the immediate task at hand.
His actions reflected the wise words of John Maxwell, who emphasizes that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Andrew demonstrated that he was deeply concerned about his overall well-being.
This exceptional display of leadership serves as a testament to the impact a servant-focused approach can have on a team, and it was a powerful touchpoint. Rather than enforcing authority through harsh discipline, he chose to cultivate a supportive and caring environment.
Everything rises and falls on leadership. Leaders have a significant impact on the team. Those who choose the tough, disciplinary approach, under the mistaken belief that this makes them a strong leader, will damage morale.
There is, however, another approach: servant leadership. When a leader takes this approach, their interactions with members of the team are one of respect, treating everyone with value, despite their rank or position. This empowers subordinates by making them feel valued and proud to be a part of the team.
Later, when the pressure is on and the team is in a crisis, they will not only be willing to contribute, but they will also want to contribute. They care about the success of the team and are motivated to do their part. Leaders that inspire this kind of motivation by taking a servant leadership approach are the exemplification of what all leaders should strive to be — a leader whom others look up to and truly desire to serve.
In conclusion, service is a transformative life value that goes beyond vague and generic notions. It is about embracing intentional servant-based leadership strategies and recognizing the significance of touchpoints, the small interactions we have with others. By choosing the path of service in these moments, we can contribute to a positive organizational culture and foster meaningful connections along the way. This extends to embracing servant leadership, treating everyone with respect and value regardless of their rank or position.
Leaders who adopt this approach inspire loyalty, motivation, and a genuine desire among team members to serve and contribute to the team’s success. Ultimately, service and servant leadership are crucial for creating a society where rank is no longer required, where teamwork and collaboration thrive.