I recently received a great question through ModernServantLeader.com:
Is there a … particular job that one should look for as a servant leader?
– “Vince” via ModernServantLeader.com
Servant Leadership should be practiced in every career, industry and function for the most sustainable, positive results. However, there are certain industries, functions and organizations that are more receptive of servant leadership principles. The reasons for this proclivity toward servant leadership are as varied as the industries, functions and businesses themselves. Based on my research and experience, below is a list of industries and functions that are more receptive to servant leadership careers. For a list of organizations that practice servant leadership, you can review the resource list of these companies here.
Industries for Servant Leadership Careers
Education: The educational industry, at all levels, has a tendency toward servant leadership careers. The emphasis on the students and their development, is a motivation for these institutions to find servant leaders for their faculty and staff.
Government: Government employees are often under appreciated while playing roles that demand a great deal of service to their constituents. The attributes of humility and service to others are often highly sought by the government industry for these reasons.
Health Care: An emphasis on the care for the health of others aligns well with servant leadership careers. What makes health care attain this list and not complimentary areas like pharmaceuticals and insurance, is the direct contact. The personal interaction observed in health care seems to be increasing the awareness and adoption in this industry.
Ministry / Religion: Likely the most obvious, the very nature of most world religions suggests those who work in the industry are servants. For example, there are so many religious organizations listing servant leadership as a key principle that I had to exclude these organizations from our list of servant leader companies. There are simply too many to include.
Non-Profit (NPO): Similar to the education industry, non-profits tend to have such a core focus on their constituents that it is easy to say “we serve ____” – a specific stakeholder group. In addition, many NPOs require a degree of self-sacrifice (be it lower pay, poor working conditions, etc.) that they need team members who put the needs of others before their own.
Politics: This is a tricky one because so many politicians espouse servant leadership beliefs, just before being caught in an affair and addicted to controlled substances while committing fraud. Certainly this is not all politicians though. The simple fact is, all members of an elected office should be servant leaders.
Retail: Companies like Men’s Wearhouse, Wegman’s, 7-Eleven, U.S. Cellular, Starbucks and more, all on the list of companies, prove the interest and success of servant leader careers in the retail industry.
Services: Like the NPO, many companies in the service industry have such a strong focus on the consumer or recipient of their services that they recognize individuals with an other-focus make the best employees. Perhaps this is why Southwest Airlines dominates their industry and is recognized as an example of servant leadership in business.
Functions for Servant Leadership Careers
Back Office: Traditional back office functions, such as Accounting, Finance and even Information Technology lend themselves especially well to the tendency to serve.
Communications / PR: Most communication roles are responsible for helping one department or organization frame their messages for broad distribution, reception and comprehension. As a result, the role of understanding the challenges and needs of many fits well in public relations and other communication roles.
Customer Support / Service: A function whose focus is, after all, serving, naturally aligns well with our principles.
Environmental: Environmental affairs, analysts and similar functions require a great degree of servant leadership. In candidly assessing their organization’s possible negative impacts, minimizing damage while establishing policies and processes to protect the community, these functions require servant leadership.
Executives: Sadly, too many chief executives achieve their positions through alternative means. However, much like elected officials, all executives accountable for such large portions of their organizations, should be servant leaders.
Governance: Functions like legal counsel, security, privacy, audit and others that provide a governance function to the organization benefit greatly from servant leadership. These roles often require a degree of self-sacrifice and humility with an eye on securing and improving the overall institution.
Human Resources: When done right, human resource functions should align well with servant leader principles. Tip: If they call HR something like “People Services” as Herman Miller does, they are more likely to get this function right and be interested in servant leaders.
Project Management: Project managers have a unique challenge in that their teams are frequently changing, the tasks and expectations shift and they must work across some of the most cross-functional groups. As such, many recruiters appreciate the importance of servant leadership to the success of individuals in these roles.
Quality Assurance: Similar to the demands of environmental functions, QA professionals often have to make tough calls that are not popular in the organization. Yet these decisions are vital in the long term success of their company, customers and other stake holders. Therefore, many organizations seek servant leaders for quality assurance.
The idea here is not to suggest the above are the only areas you will find or should practice servant leadership principles. Servant Leadership is the only authentic form of leadership for sustainable results and should be practiced everywhere possible. Instead, take this list for what it is – a compilation of areas where you are more likely to find and receive servant leadership principles already in action. Therefore, if you are a servant leader seeking a career in which your character and practices will be received and supported, the above list of industries and functions is a good place to start. Just remember, serve first, always, wherever and whenever your leadership services are needed.
Questions: What other industries, functions or businesses have you seen servant leadership principles strongly adopted and promoted? What industry function or business do you practice these principles in now?