Learning to serve, to lead – By Sara Cameron

I think it was Kate Taylor or maybe it was Jon Lever who announced to the APC candidates I was revising with, that we were all leaders. That is what Chartered Surveyors are.

I’d always leaned into helping, developing, bringing people on to be better. I have managed and led multiple teams throughout my career always putting people first.

To make things better than when I found them.

I just didn’t know it had a label.

I was serving to lead.

If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams

I am often heard saying that ‘we rise by lifting others up’. Its not a buzz phrase, I truly believe it. For me leadership has always been about serving first, delivering through others, getting the best out of people by being in it together.

Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.

Simon Sinek

Servant leaders hold two common and fundamental beliefs – every person has value and deserves trust, civility and respect; and people can accomplish much when inspired by purpose beyond themselves.

I define servant leadership as a persons dedication to helping others be their best selves.

S Chris Edmonds, The Culture Engine

Servant leaders tend to listen intently and observe. They act as selfless mentors. They are tenacious and invest whatever time is necessary to educate and inspire. They hold themselves accountable, push for higher standards of performance quality and alignment of values.

But it requires time and conscious choice to not be the top of the pyramid. My natural state may be in service and collaboration but my learned behaviours have some bad habits which I am learning to break.

You have to think about WHY you do what you do?

For me the first job is to empower people – to build and support other leaders to follow. I am realising it is all about intentionality and heart change:

  • Prioritise people;
  • Be intentional;
  • Think differently;
  • Evaluate outcomes;
  • Everyone’s role is important;
  • If you have something share it;
  • If you need something ask for it;
  • Don’t point fingers, no blame here;
  • Say thank you – have an attitude of gratitude;
  • Acknowledge people with a smile;
  • ASK – How can I help, what can I do?;
  • It’s about what you can give not get;
  • It is transformative not transactional;
  • Significance or substance over success or style;
  • Purpose not numbers.

He that thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.

John C Maxwell

One final thought. There is nothing wrong with career mindedness and seeking success…it’s great. But for me I am striving to achieve a balance between success and the satisfaction that I made a difference the right way and lived my values. My measure of success isn’t what I achieve it’s what the people I help achieve.

At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished…it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better, it’s about what you’ve given back.

Denzel Washington

So often self centred managers are incorrectly dubbed leaders because they produce results. But at what cost? It simply isn’t sustainable and constant pushing leads to burn out and negativity.

Success isn’t about climbing over people to get there or using connections to get what you want.

No narcissists here. No winning at any cost. No emphasis on personal success over anyone else. No toxic hierarchical cultures.

It’s about a satisfying sustainable career through raising people up.

We are in this together.

One thought on “Learning to serve, to lead – By Sara Cameron

  1. Sara, yet again you have spoken and shared with such eloquence and emotional intelligence; a powerful combination, that is devoid in many ‘leaders’, across the world.

    From my experience, such thinking will remain ‘a rare commodity’ in a world where material gain, social status and economic prowess are considered ‘more worthy attributes’ to pursue. In fact, apparently, you are not a leader if you are not ‘materially’ endowed. But is the power and influence of money and material wealth, infinite? Allegedly, money can buy you happiness, but yet, it cannot buy you good health. Let’s unpack this for a moment.

    Throughout my career I have experienced all kinds of leadership, by many different types of leader, all over the world. Some good, some bad and on occasion, sometimes absolutely amazing. But with me, I have always held myself accountable to the legacy of the experience [good and/or bad], with each of the leaders that I have come into contact with. More to the point, they were all human beings with the propensity to make mistakes and maintain their own bias(es).

    Regrettably, and in my own humble opinion, it is only ever up to the individual to be overwhelmed by a negative experience, instigated by a bad leader. In fact, just recently, I have observed a ‘style of leadership’ which pretty much stemmed from the individual’s own personal insecurity. However, being resilient and steadfast, in the face of adversity is also a trait that natural born leaders are fully equipped with. So, for me, it was immensely insightful, but yet quite amusing. However, for those of us who are more emotional, where such derogatory circumstances have occurred, it can be the difference between someone staying or leaving an organisation. Therefore, it is incumbent upon ‘leaders’ to tread with caution and learn to serve. I say this because, ALL leaders must have a natural ability (and duty) to be emotionally intelligent. And, as I have observed on so many occasions, it is this incapacity – to be and demonstrate emotional intelligence – that ultimately defines whether an individual should be in a position of leadership, or not.

    Given that I have a passion for mathematics, I have coined the following equation: IQ over EQ = NO CLUE. Which basically means, that when human beings are involved and where ‘basic’ intelligence outweighs ‘emotional’ intelligence – in a leader – the likelihood of a positive outcome, is often doomed to failure.

    Seniority of title is no indication (or proof) of an ability to lead and serve others, and this is what inspires me, to continue to be humble and grounded. I have much to share with my mentees and colleagues – who are often – initially confused, by my ‘accessibility and reach’ and how ‘normal and down to earth’ I appear to be. But that credit, whilst gratefully received, is simply a reflection of my journey – where I am fully aware of one fact, which is that, no one [man or woman] is an island. I have also found that some colleagues / mentees just need a nudge or a 1-to-1 conversation when they arrive at ‘the crossroads’. Others need more strategic advice as to what the various colours on the traffic light mean. Some may even need to learn how they establish their ‘biting point’ in order to pull off, while facing an uphill challenge, without rolling back [and failing]. But all of us need to observe the conditions of safe stopping distances and the intrinsic requirement to slow down and stop safely [i.e. show respect and dignity for others]. That is true leadership, to serve.

    Of course, my favourite actor, Brother Denzel, was so right: “At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished…it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better, it’s about what you’ve given back……”

    So, I am of the view that the moral compass of any ‘leader’ must be realigned [with purpose and a genuine desire to serve others]. That is all I intend to build and enforce, with reference to the #NextGen talent pool, who now more than ever, need our unfailing support and guidance.

    Yours truly [a humble servant and PQS with a CM bias].

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