If You’re Not Serving, You’re not Leading


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The leader who serves self-interest leads no one. The leader who serves others leads them.

“He that thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.” ― John C. Maxwell

As Maxwell points out – those with no followers are not leading. The saying can be easily extended to those that are controlled or manipulated followers. For example, if someone is obligated to follow you for compensation, security or other reasons they deem beyond their control, they are not truly following. Instead, those “followers” are merely employees or other form of dependents.

If you desire to be a leader – forget it, you’re not ready.

If instead, you want to serve and believe you can serve most effectively as a leader, then you get it. Lead by serving your stakeholders. That’s the only way to be a real leader – through service. Am I biased? I don’t think so. I think I’m a realist. Servant Leadership is real leadership. Anything else is an excuse for self-interest.

Question: What do you think, is it possible to lead without serving those you lead?


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

4 thoughts on “If You’re Not Serving, You’re not Leading”

  1. Ben, your recent postings have been especially good.  I am a great admirer of modernservantleader, and of you.  You are making a difference.  Keep it up!  In friendship, Larry Spears

  2. David McCuistion

    Thank you for your emails and inspirations on Servant Leadership.  I hold seminars on Servant Leadership, so I value immensely your emails.
    Robert Greenleaf said that he first got the idea of Servant Leadership after reading Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse. I am sure you have read it and remember “The Law of Service” as told by Leo, the leader of the mystical group of Hermann Hess; many presume it is Hesse’s own journey for enlightenment.
    The Law of Service:
    He who wishes to live long must serve, but
    He who wishes to rule does not live long.
    From my prospective and personal leadership experience through my 29-year Navy career and over 20 years in the educational environment, Servant Leadership is the most effective and productive leadership practice to use. I have personally observed the change in makes in the lives and careers of people who worked under my leadership. Furthermore, the intrinsic value I received from this leadership practice is by far the greatest reward of my life.
    So to answer your question from my prospective: While it may be possible to lead without serving those you lead, it is not possible to lead successfully without serving those you lead and the organization in which you are a leader.
    Thank you again for your email. Keep up the great work.
    David McCuistion
    Vanguard Organizational Leadership (VOL)
    “Developing Great Leaders Who Develop Great Leaders”

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