To Lead is to Serve…A Leadership Mantra

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”
– Max DuPree

A number of years ago, I wrote down my leadership mantra. A mantra is defined as “a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of ‘creating transformation.'”

My mantra read:

To lead is to serve.
To serve is to lead.

The idea that a mantra can facilitate transformation appealed to me. My highest aspiration is to be a servant leader, someone who recognizes that service of others is the ultimate act of leadership. If I am leading only because I want people to follow me, because I crave the spotlight, I am not really a leader at all. I can identify times in my life when I led for all the wrong reasons. My motivation to lead has evolved over the years, and I believe that I truly became a leader when I learned to serve without expectation.

In The Servant as Leader Robert Greenleaf wrote, “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant—first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test is: Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

In the weeks to come, I’ll be blogging more about my leadership mantra, exploring the ten characteristics of the servant-leader, as identified by Larry C. Spears based on the writings of Robert Greenleaf.

I agree with Spears assessment about servant leadership, which he says “truly offers hope and guidance for a new era in human development.”

What is your leadership mantra? What is your highest aspiration? Are you a servant leader?

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