Causes of Leadership Failure – Unwillingness to Render Humble Service


Willing to render humble service?Truly great leaders are willing, when occasion demands, to perform any sort of labor that they would ask another to perform. “The greatest among ye shall be the servant of all” is a truth that all able leaders observe and respect. – Napoleon Hill

[This is the second in a series discussing the causes of leadership failure presented by Napoleon Hill]

‘Don’t ask others to do something you won’t do yourself.’ That truism is at the heart of this cause of leadership failure. One of the reasons for violating this statement is the feeling that a task is beneath us. In some ways, that’s worse than simply being too lazy to do the task yourself. It fundamentally shows a belief that you’re superior, and others will quickly pick up on your attitude. Believe me, no one likes to have anyone look down on them. What causes this failure in leadership to manifest itself? More importantly, how can you overcome it?

A Great Leader is a Servant

There are a number of reasons why a leader doesn’t perform certain tasks. Some of them are valid. For example, a person may delegate tasks for any of the following reasons:

  • They don’t have enough time given their other responsibilities
  • They don’t have the necessary skill to perform the task
  • They lack confidence
  • They feel overwhelmed
  • They’re lazy
  • They think they’re too good for that kind of work

The first two are valid. If there are many facets of an assignment requiring multiple simultaneous tasks, you simply won’t have enough time to do everything yourself. Therefore it makes sense to delegate. Similarly, if you lack the necessary skills to perform an assignment, trying to develop the skills needed while on a deadline may not always be the best choice. You may better serve your objectives and benefit all on your team by assigning that particular task to someone with greater ability. Notice I said may; sometimes stretching yourself leads to discovering unknown abilities, as my fellow blogger Jessica mentioned in this post. The next two deal with self-worth and assessment of your own abilities. If you lack confidence, then take steps to increase it. Typically, setting small goals and achieving little wins is a great confidence boost, as David Byrd points out in his Next Level Achievement System® (NLAS). Additionally, a system by which you manage your development process, such as the NLAS, allows you to break down tasks into manageable daily tasks, thus reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed. The last two, however, are more challenging. They deal with a persistent and pervasive mindset, and that’s a tough nut to crack. The first of the two the NLAS addresses. Having you break down your goals into small action steps and then holding you accountable for achieving them often helps overcome any inherent laziness. The last point deals with a feeling of entitlement, that others need to do certain things for you. Once you feel you’re above others, you’re in trouble.

Servant Leader

A good leader is also a servant

Napoleon Hill quoted the words of Christ Jesus (Matthew 23:11) who emphasized a willingness to serve others. This is what leads to greatness. Though speaking to his disciples within the context of their ministry, those words apply to so many other areas, including our professional lives. Instead of a feeling of entitlement, this attitude encourages service to others as the means for achieving greatness. Is it any wonder that a lack of willingness to perform humble service is a cause for leadership failure?

Developing the Right Attitude

One of the simplest ways to get your mind right about serving others is to practice what you preach. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to Christians living in Rome when he said, “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal?” (Romans 2:21) We need to set the right example when it comes to humble service, and this is especially true when it comes to serving the needs of our customers. If you as a leader have a poor attitude towards dealing with the problems customers bring to your organization, you can bet your team picks up on that. Before long, you’ll have a team of people with a similar (if not worse) attitude.

Do you do the things you expect others to do, no matter how great or small? Sometimes we find it easy to do the big things but balk at the small stuff, especially when that small stuff is inconvenient. Since the best way to lead is by example, how you handle the “small stuff” gives an indication of your willingness to render humble service to others. If those you lead perceive you hold yourself to a different standard than that to which you hold them, they won’t follow you for very long. At the very least, they won’t give you the full respect and cooperation necessary to make your leadership effective. So get into the habit of doing the very things you expect of others. Demonstrate your willingness to render service by performing even the smallest tasks and you’ll be surprised at how well others follow your example.

How would you rate your willingness to perform humble service (to do the “small stuff”)? How can you improve in this area? Do you have stories, good and bad, of how you dealt with this cause of leadership failure in your organization? Leave your comments below.

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13 thoughts on “Causes of Leadership Failure – Unwillingness to Render Humble Service

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