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Being a servant leader doesn't mean being spineless or taking on abuse
The “servant” part of “servant leader” is tricky, if not to say, just troublesome. Historically, the term meant (according to Oxford dictionary):
“a person who works in another person’s house, and cooks, cleans, etc. for them.”
Current meanings go in different directions, yet the connotation with slavery won’t go anywhere soon. Yes, I know the intention is to support people on their journeys in an organisation instead of pointing fingers (unless it concerns something they should realise).
Yet, I’ve heard too many times (in the early days, I thought this myself):
“It comes with the job.”
“They did not mean it.”
“It’s just a phase in team’s development.”
“I just ignore that. It will go around.”
“When you work with change this is bound to happen.”
“It’s ok, I don’t want anybody to see me as an imposter.”
All the above when people acted up, and were forgiven without setting boundaries. Scrum Masters, formal or informal leaders, team members abused by others:
jokes that, in reality, are character assassination,
criticism without professional framing,
lack of support and tools to do the job,
negligence in various forms.
Nobody wants to be a victim, and thus, we go around not acknowledging what happened with the intention that, by doing so, it won’t touch us. Yet, it already did. Naming things the way they are is the first thing to taking ownership of yourself and confronting the situation.
When a person chooses the path of a servant leader (never mind the formal role), it does not mean you come with a clean slate. You bring your:
character (with it’s flaws),
set of values,
set of boundaries,
things you believe.
You come in as a beautiful painting, not an empty canvas on which everyone can smear anything they wish and go about their business. Support people while maintaining integrity and lose the “servant” part.
🎈Share this post if you think it can make somebody start setting boundaries in their work.