Toilet Seats & Servant Leadership: Two Actions You Must Balance To Ensure Success

Over this past while I have unpacked my thoughts on Servant Leadership. Some readers have taken me to task for not understanding Greenleaf’s Theory. That could be a fair critique, but my point is not that Servant Leadership is wrong or a bad idea.


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My point is that if you are not meeting your objectives while practicing the best of Servant Leadership you are running a country club not a high performing team. Worse yet, you are not serving your people: You are failing them!

Failing them by wasting their time, intellect and energy.

You are not even serving yourself. Forbes, The Harvard Business Review and a long list of publications and studies have shown that up to 75% of fired business leaders failed because they did not achieve the goals of their organization. I suppose they can now serve at Starbucks, but that is likely small solace.

Where does Servant Leadership come in?

When managers put their employees’ needs over their own, businesses gain in customer satisfaction, increased job performance and lower turnover according to a study published by the Academy of Management Journal. They found that bosses who create a culture of trust, caring, cooperation, fairness and empathy, have employees who feel more valued, which prompts them to give more back to their employer and customers.

It’s a Balancing Act

Your role as the boss is to be continually balancing letting your people see that you care while ensuring that you have a plan and expect to hit your goals.


You may be aware that I used to run a division of a large non-profit. One of our programs was the loaning of health mobility and bathing aids to people in hospice, convalescing or recovering from surgery. When the equipment was returned, it had to be cleaned. In layman’s terms, my team washed poop off of toilet seats. The work was not glamorous, and it was hard to see where the staff fit into the organization’s high and lofty vision.

I practised Servant Leadership with these fine people. I knew their names, their children names, and their stories. I listened to them for business improvement ideas and to make sure they had what they needed to do their work. I wanted them to be successful.

I also invested heavily in ensuring they knew they contributed to the overall organization’s goals. I took the time to let them know that their work provided dignity, humanity and care to these extraordinarily vulnerable clients.

But let me be clear, I treated them like human beings so they would work hard for me; allow me to be successful; and, to meet my organizational objectives.

I practice Servant Leadership not because it is a management trend but because I liked those people.