Servant Leadership Workplace-One Bite

Servant Leadership, One Bite at a Time

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

How could you advance servant leadership in a workplace where the opposition to it seems overwhelming?

One bite at a time.

That can be a wise approach.

The notion that we can meet a large challenge by completing many small tasks is captured less carnivorously* by the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, who writes:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

If you prefer a more mountainous metaphor (also from China):

“The person who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

Vincent Van Gogh puts it this way:

“For the great doesn’t happen through impulse alone, and is a succession of little things that are brought together.”

Booker T. Washington agrees:

“Success in life is founded upon attention to the small things rather than to the large things; to the every day things nearest to us rather than to the things that are remote and uncommon.”

And so does Helen Keller:

“I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”

While we may aspire to be great heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr., everyone has the power now for greatness. Dr. King himself recognizes:

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

In our experience, any individual, at any level of authority within a workplace, can advance servant leadership, one bite at a time.

We have written before about ways servant-leaders lead change at work through small acts (see for example, To Advance Servant Leadership in Your Workplace, Follow a Servant-Leader or Servant Leadership Behaviors — BBs, Not Bullets).

And we plan to focus some of our future blogs on that same subject.

But for now, let’s start with some inspiration from Robert F. Kennedy, who says our small acts can be a kind of “tiny ripple” that, when joined with others, will make a giant difference:

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

What do you think? Can big change come by small acts? Have you seen that happen in your workplace?

Let us know.

As always, we appreciate your views. Thanks!


* For the record, I love elephants and would never propose anyone really eat one.