After being in this business for 20 years, I realize the businesses I respect the most are those that take a sincere interest in the betterment of community around them. This looks like different things based on the size of the organization, the needs of the community, and the desired outcome. Whether small investments or large, servitude and servant leadership matters, and here's a look at why.
Main Street vs. Wall Street
Yep, most of our lives are dictated by what happens in our local economies; not the national. Your local gas station's price of .01 cent difference is what you pay attention to - not the barrel price. You purchase groceries based on location, service, and price (not necessarily in that order). Your entertainment is often considered according to your location, which dictates cultural norms based on geography. Even your local government has more effect on your daily commute, education, housing, and ability to grow than any other group of like citizens you'll ever have to participate with. If we're to pay attention, Main Street is more directly impactful on our daily lives than Wall Street, and we're the most important citizens in our towns.
On Main Street, we actually know our CEOs, middle managers, and R&D personnel personally. We know their characters, their hopes and dreams, and how they go about delivering on promises. Main Street says that it is committed and focused on locals like you and me. What are the ways that Main Street’s leaders, including you, serve your community?
There are different ways to influence change and practice servitude on Main Street. We identify four types of influencing archetypes and leaders. They are the pioneer, leader, manager, and driver. Each one of these roles uses different skills to serve. Pioneers are the visionaries of society. Leaders are the rally cry of society. Managers are the organizers of society. Drivers are the doers of society. It is possible that one person can assume multiple roles, however, it is unlikely that one person maintains all roles simultaneously.
It is important to articulate which role servant leaders are assuming at any given moment so that we can work with others to fill the gaps in the other roles. Assume that every problem is unique because we’re in a new moment every moment. There’s a method to the madness of saying this out loud. “This problem is unique because we’re in a new moment that hasn’t existed before.” This one statement moistens your brain for questions. Asking, not telling, is the foundation to authentic servant leadership. Have you asked your community to articulate their needs and how they want you to support them? If not, who are you serving?
I segment solution finding into two categories: a) there are existing solutions that people need to be inspired or threatened to use, and b) things we don’t have answers for yet, but need and/or want to find them. It’s important to know which category we’re working in. I use the following four questions to kickstart the process.
Is this problem common in humans?
Is this problem a derivative of oppression, suppression, and/or enslavement?
Does the system for this problem (or solution) exist elsewhere?
Is there space for innovation and/or invention?
If the goal of organizations is to meet the needs of locals according to the nuanced issues of the community, it’s important to maximize all resources and tools towards that bullseye, right? Asking questions allows everyone the opportunity to do the work to articulate, research, acquire, allocate and implement solutions that work.
Integrity Builds Trust
Listen. People talk a lot of shit they have no capacity to implement. I don’t know how to say that politely in part because it infuriates me. I am most upset by the fact that folks actually could act upon their visions and commitments, but they don’t ask enough questions to get anywhere. We each have a talent that is meant to be used to sustain ourselves and serve others. The ego is set up to protect us from emotional harm, but it also blocks our ability to truly see ourselves truthfully. Asking questions about what is important to those we serve is vital to our ability to do business with integrity. We cannot serve ourselves in business and pretend we’re meeting Main Street’s needs.
We can only implement our talents as tools for service to others when we are humble and courageous enough to ask those around us if what we have is what they need. This is a frightening thing to do, I know. It comes with an entire industry of people waiting to “help” you cope with rejection, being wrong, and teaching how to coerce people to do what they don’t really want to do. These methods lack integrity, and servant leaders know it. Servant leadership in Main Street’s businesses create safe, flexible and innovative solutions that radiate something different. People don’t fear it and they are also curious to know more.
What is it that piques their interest and what compels them to go out of their way to explore what they may not even understand? Could it be an opportunity to be heard, understood, and catered to in a way that solves the issue they did the work to articulate? Yep. It’s unbroken trust.