Taking the lead by Debra Fraser
Welcome to the first edition of Launching Leaders a bimonthly conversation about leadership and people engagement, better known as human resources. It encompasses leadership strategies, management issues, recruitment, business services outsourcing and just about everything to do with managing human capital.
It’s fitting we debut with a conversation about leadership given the wealth of knowledge and literature available in print and online about this subject area. Over the past few decades, we’ve witnessed the evolution of workplace philosophy from just focusing on managing staff to placing greater emphasis on leading team members. On the surface, the difference may seem semantic or mere wordplay, but the distinction is very important and in my opinion is a significant characteristic driving the BPO sector, an industry which is transforming Jamaica’s economic landscape.
There are many great books that speak to the core of what effective leadership should entail. Good To Great by Jim Collins comes readily to mind, as does The Servant as Leader by Robert K Greenleaf, who coined the term ‘servant leadership’. Greenleaf says “the servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve; to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
Truly effective leaders start from a place of appreciation for every team member’s contribution and exhibit a sincere desire to serve as much as they do to lead. This is the kicker — servant leadership turns the traditional hierarchy upside down. The higher you go in the organisation, the more you serve those who you manage. This is a philosophy that leaders must work closely with their HR and department leaders to flesh out.
It means that in a typical team setting, it is not the most savvy or best educated who is promoted, but the one who is most engaged with assisting the team in fulfilling their deliverables. This type of person is focused on ensuring his coworkers are truly successful at getting the job done, and does so in a way that balances efficiency with engagement. With this mantra, the leader who masters his tactical job does so while pulling up his teammates to succeed with her/him. It’s the opposite of the popular Jamaican colloquialism “…crab pulling down crab”. And who can resist a leader who genuinely wants to help you be successful?