Let's not Confuse Public Service with Servant Leadership

October 5, 2017

Serving is at the core of what every local government employee does. Responding to domestic dispute calls, repairing a water leak in the middle of the night, serving customers that have received municipal court violations, and working with elected officials are all types of service to the community. Every local government employee is a public servant - that is, they serve the people of the community, and the interests of the community itself. It’s what you do, and for most of you, it’s who you are.

 

Let’s not confuse the role of public servant with that of servant-leader though. You are a public servant by the nature of being an elected official who has willfully signed on to serve the public interest, or perhaps because your wages and salary are paid for with public funds. After you accept a role like this in a local, state, or federal government, you automatically earn the designation of “public servant”.

 

There is no automatic path to becoming a servant leader. Servant leadership is a mindset and life philosophy that transcends working in the public sector. There are fantastic servant leaders in multi-national for-profit corporations and there are people in important local government roles that lead in dramatic opposition to the principles of servant leadership. Service to others is a key component to servant leadership, but it is not the only component.

 

Servant leadership is, at its core, simply leading others by serving their needs first. A firefighter/EMT that responds to a call and provides excellent medical care is providing a service. There is no leadership in this case, just service. An important service for sure, but there is no leadership called for, or delivered in this example. 

 

A code enforcement officer that takes the time to educate a homeowner on how she might come into compliance with a particular property code, and then helps that homeowner to access the resources needed is acting as a servant leader.

 

At the JDGray Group, we passionately believe in helping public servants become better servant leaders. If you’d like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to call or write.

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