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Why It's Better to Lead From the Bottom

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

Most of us don’t want to be at the bottom of anything (well, at least not in most circumstances!) When we’re on the bottom, it feels like we’re lower, we’re not as good - instead we want control, we want to be on top!

But being on top isn’t always the best place from which to lead. Sure, there are times when you need to be on top, to set the vision, for example, but the best place to lead is in the trenches with your people - empowering them, supporting them, challenging them, and yes, serving them.

Whether you are familiar with the concept of servant leadership or you’re just hearing it for the first time - it’s no wonder it gets scoffed at by many managers. Who wants to be called a servant? It’s never had a very good connotation! We’d rather be the master, right? Well think about how that sounds from your team’s point of view. Would they prefer if you’re their master, or if you’re there to serve them? Maybe we should leave “mastering” to our crafts, and not our people.

Picture a triangle and you’re at the top, with your people at the bottom. Now invert that triangle and put your people at the top, because they are the ones on the front line, serving your customers, taking care of business. And you are at the bottom, supporting and empowering them so they can be successful.

So what does it really mean to be a servant leader? Mastering these 5 competencies will not only help you better serve your people, but it will produce results beyond the traditional manager role:

  1. Self-Awareness. Understanding your own emotions, thoughts, beliefs.

  2. Self-Control. Managing those emotions, thoughts, and beliefs, and controlling your reactions.

  3. Empathy. Understanding other people’s emotions and perspectives, and truly listening to your people.

  4. Development. Building others’ confidence and helping them grow by creating opportunities and clearing roadblocks. Helping people stay on track.

  5. Team Building. Creating a sense of community for your team, respecting styles and focusing the team toward a collective goal.

So why should we lead from the bottom? The cold hard truth is, if you don’t have a mentality of serving the people who work for you, serving your customers, and quite frankly, even serving your loved ones - your relationships will suffer and you’ll not only be stressed out, but you won’t get the results you’re looking for.

Last month in a Supervisory Skills training we were discussing servant leadership and a great question came up - that almost all the class wanted an answer to! This is verbatim from Jeremy: "I feel like I have a handle on #1  - I’m pretty aware of my thoughts and emotions. But my big question is - How do I control my reactions?"

Great question, and such a great topic! Come on over to my podcast for the answer!

​Now I'd love to hear from you - share in the comments sections what has worked for you to control your emotions. 


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