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The Humble, Suffering Leader

I watched him hustle every year ahead of the building Christmas breakfast. We always looked forward to the food, interaction, music, and the annual white elephant gift exchange that had taken on a life of its own over the years. Who would get the toilet seat warmer, the large red dictionary, or the toilet plunger phone stand that kept finding their way back to the pile of gifts?

He worked hard year after year to make that special time happen for us. And every year he sat back and enjoyed our enjoyment.

As a Vice President, he could have easily delegated the paltry preparations to his staff of buying the food, getting up early to cook those things that required cooking, ensuring the music was taken care of, getting the right amount of dishes to serve the food, etc.

But he didn’t.

He did delegate responsibilities to ensure he wasn’t a bottleneck, and he was in the midst of the preparations. He enjoyed serving.

His actions demonstrated one of the truest principles of leadership: The person most fit to carry the responsibilities of a leader is the most humble and willing to serve.

The interesting part about being willing to serve is that not too far behind comes suffering. One cannot serve willingly without having to lower self and potentially be walked over.

For some, seeing another stoop to serve is permission to step on them to advance.

The reality in this scenario is that those who stoop to serve are the authentic leaders - those who take advantage of perceived weakness to advance are opportunists and selfish autocrats, not leaders.

Authentic leaders work for employees, for friend, for neighbor, and for stranger. In doing so, they are benefited because the mind is drawn away from the discouragements that will crowd in when focusing on self.

Don’t seek to be a leader unless you’re willing to serve and suffer for others.

Imagine a world where less people chase leadership to be respected and looked up to, but humbly desire to improve the world for those whom they lead through service and humility, despite personal suffering.

I want to be part of that world.

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