Dr. Gary Chapman on seven traits servant leaders share
A search on Amazon.com for books on servant leadership comes back with nearly 3,000 results. It’s a hot topic in leadership studies. The basic definition is this: a servant leader takes care of his troops, employees or colleagues before attending to his own needs.
While many of these books offer advice, for Dr. Gary Chapman (MA Anthropology ’72), it’s simple.
“If you’re not a loving person, you will never be a servant leader.”
It’s not surprising to hear Chapman discuss love. After all, his New York Times bestselling book, The Five Love Languages has become a series with special editions that reach out specifically to singles, men and parents of teens and young children, along with the workplace.
His talk on March 4 at the School of Business was sponsored by the Center for Leadership and Character. While he said being a loving person is critical to becoming a servant leader, acting like a servant leader just to affect your business’ bottom line is manipulative.
For those who truly want to embrace a model of servant leadership, Chapman offered an audience of students, faculty and staff in Farrell Hall’s Broyhill Auditorium seven traits servant leaders share:
Chapman reminds us kindness comes from the Greek word to be useful or beneficial to someone. “In the business world and in the personal world, what you consider to be beneficial to someone, they may not see as beneficial,” Chapman said. “It’s always good to ask ‘Would it be helpful to you if I….’ Don’t just assume you know how to be beneficial.”
This means accepting the imperfections of other people. But how do you develop patience? Chapman says it’s by acknowledging when you aren’t patient. “If you will go back and apologize to the person whom you were impatient with, chances are, you won’t be impatient with them the next day.”
Chapman said it is important to distinguish between definitive anger – when someone has wronged you and you are motivated to set it right – and distorted anger – when we don’t get our way. It’s important to learn the difference and then also how to process these feelings.
“Loving people are courteous people,” Chapman said. From using the manners our parents taught us, to treating everyone we meet as a friend, he said every expression of courtesy enriches someone else’s life.
Chapman defines it this way: Stepping down so others can step up. He used the example of Jim Collins’ Good to Great,which found that CEOs of the companies profiled were all self-effacing. “They didn’t seek praise. They were likely to say ‘We have a lot of great people working here,’” Chapman said. “They just do their best and motivate others to do their best.”
Chapman said, “Loving people are generous people. Servant leaders are generous people. Give your time and give your abilities to others.”
It’s all about caring enough to tell the truth. “Honest people will help you because they will be honest and tell you the things they think will be helpful,” Chapman said.
Chapman closed his comments by telling the audience, “If we aspire to be a loving person, then when we get into business, we will be servant leaders. Because that’s who we are, and that’s why we exist: to serve people.”