You have never been to Anne’s office before. You are looking forward to having lunch with her today.
You arrive early to find Anne has stepped away. Anne’s assistant shows you into Anne’s office where you can wait.
What things displayed in that office might suggest that Anne is a servant-leader?
Manifestations of a servant leadership culture can be easy to spot. Here’s my list of 7 things you might see in a servant-leader’s office.
- An open door. An open door sends a continuous signal that you are there to help when folks need you. Of course, people need to close the door for privacy or confidentiality, but when closed is the exception rather than the rule, most people appreciate it.
- A desk pointing towards that open door. What’s more welcoming when you walk in, a smiling face or a turned back? You get the idea.
- At least two equal-sized chairs where people can talk face-to-face. I have noticed that servant-leaders tend to do little things to communicate a sense of equality, like getting up from the big desk chair and coming around to sit face to face with those they are meeting. Commanders-and-controllers tend to do the opposite.
- Mementos from the team. Cards, presents, souvenirs brought back from trips – things like these strongly suggest that team members are friends, care about each other and are relationship-oriented.
- Photos of people. Family, friends and colleagues from work. Who would you rather report to, a person who hangs photos of his ’66 Mustang or a person who hangs photos of the team winning a volleyball game at the last company picnic?
- A copy of the company mission. It is pretty clear that servant-leaders try to help followers stay connected to the company mission. So, it is not surprising to see a mission statement somewhere in a servant-leader’s office.
- Some connection to the larger good. Maybe it’s the logo of a service organization, maybe it’s a plaque in thanks for volunteering or maybe it’s an annual report from a charity. You might see something in the office that says, in effect, “it’s not about me, it’s about others.”
As you are looking around, Anne walks in, right on time.
“I’m glad I’m not late,” Anne says. “I find that people appreciate being visited by the boss in there own spaces, rather than schlepping to mine. Since some of my team was relocated across the street last year, it takes me longer to get back and forth between meetings.”
Then you think, of course, that’s one thing I did not see in Anne’s office – Anne! She was off spending time with her people.
What would you add to the list of things you might see in a servant-leader’s office?
And, what would you expect not to see in a servant-leader’s office? (That might prove to be a fun list.)