A person legally owned by another and having no freedom of action or right to property is called a slave. A person working in the service of another is known as a servant. Two vastly different concepts, yet often one is confused with the other.
Still today, the word “servant” conjures up a tall gentleman in coattails with folded arm, ready to carry your coat around while you work the room at a public function, or a young maid with head dress and white apron emerging from the kitchen with a tray of amuse-geules.
At another, more accurate level, being a servant is not a condition, nor is it one of servitude; it is an attitude. It is also a choice.
In the business world, it means placing the needs and well-being of one’s clients or customers at the forefront of any decision and action. This requires foresight, integrity and flexibility. It also requires a lot of perseverance, for the ever changing market and economic circumstances present many challenges that require constant re-adjustment in strategy and re-assessment of one’s beliefs.
There are many business strategies for leaders to adopt and apply to their daily activities in order to walk a straight line, honor employees and clients and promote their product or services in effective ways, but strategy alone cannot win all battles, especially if it is applied at all costs. What matters deeply, then, is to adhere to a personal code of conduct.
To be a true servant, out of choice and out of integrity, means just that. It sets the tone for all decisions. It fuels every action in all circumstances and guides every decision. This is why true servants often, perhaps inevitably, become leaders.