Servant Leadership Workplace-Requent Flyers

Servant-Leaders and Frequent Flyers

What do servant-leaders and frequent flyers have in common?

I believe the answer is this: Both gain their status through continuous action and both can lose their status through inaction.

OK, perhaps I should say more.

I live in Atlanta. That means I drink Coca-Cola products, of course, and it also means I fly on Delta Airlines.

Indeed, I am a member of the Delta frequent flyer program. Because I did not travel so much last year, right now I only have “Silver Medallion” status – the lowest level Medallion; but because I am traveling a ton this year, I will soon move up to “Gold Medallion” status.

Of course, if I were to stop flying on Delta, then before too long my Medallion status would expire altogether and I would not be recognized with priority boarding, upgrades and other such things.

So, my status as a frequent flyer, in the eyes of Delta, is dependent on continuous action – flying!

I believe the same is true for a servant-leader.

One’s status as a servant-leader, in the eyes of followers, is dependent on continuous action – servant-leading!

I see two implications from this.

First, one cannot rest on one’s laurels, as it were, and remain a good servant-leader. In servant leadership, today matters more than yesterday. One can lose servant-leader status – and indeed, one will likely lose followers – if one takes a servant leadership leave of absence.

Second, merely having good intentions does not make one a servant-leader. Robert K. Greenleaf, who coined the term “servant-leader,” makes the point clearly:

“Servant-leaders differ from other persons of good will because they act on what they believe.

Likewise, one cannot claim to be a servant-leader by nature but, at the same time, point to no actions supporting such a claim.

I might go so far as to say that people are not born servant-leaders any more than they are born frequent flyers. Action – leading or flying, as the case may be – is the thing that defines each.

Well, my flight is boarding so I better move along.

What do you think? Can one claim to be a servant-leader in the absence of continuous action supporting such a claim? Can servant-leader status be lost? What are we missing here?

While I’m in the air, let us know.

As always, we appreciate your views. Thanks!


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