The idea of servant leadership, of bringing humility and a servant’s attitude to our work, is something that we can and should do each and every day.
By Charles Araujo
Not long ago, my son and I had the privilege of sitting next to Edward James Olmos at a fundraiser for the Variety Boys & Girls Club of East Los Angeles. As you might imagine, it was very glamorous to have dinner with a bona fide movie star and real life celebrity. It was glamorous for everyone, perhaps, except for Olmos.
He was attending the event to accept an inaugural annual award that would be given in his name to members of the community that have gone "above and beyond" in their support of the Variety Boys & Girls Club. But Olmos' day had begun at 4 AM that morning when he woke up and drove himself to the airport to catch an early morning flight to Las Vegas. He flew there to deliver a speech at another nonprofit fundraiser that had also asked for his support. Upon his return to Los Angeles, Olmos drove straight to the Biltmore Hotel where he delivered his speech for our group and graciously posed for photos—for hours.
As I spoke with Olmos that evening, it was clear that he was exhausted. I asked him why he did it. His answer was simple. He explained that he had received so much support during his life (he had attended the Variety Boys & Girls Club as a child) that he saw it as his duty to give back and serve others who had come after him. Olmos saw his celebrity not as a reward for what he had accomplished, but as a tool he could use to serve others.
When Olmos spoke that evening to our gala attendees, he thanked all of those who were serving the Variety Boys & Girls Club and challenged each of us to do more in our efforts to be of service to our communities. It was inspiring.
A Season of Serving
No matter your cultural heritage or religious faith, this time of year brings with it a universal outpouring of compassion, hope and service. We reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to a fresh beginning. We slow down, just a bit, and enjoy those things that are truly meaningful in our lives: our families, our friends and the joy of helping others.
As IT leaders, I believe we can also use this time of year to reflect on the true meaning of service. I believe our profession is, in fact, a noble calling. I believe that with the right mindset, we have an opportunity to utilize our skills to make the world a better place. It may be subtle and nuanced, but the opportunity to serve others through our work and talents is all around us each and every day.
In my book The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change, I touch on the idea of "servant leadership." It is this idea that we can accomplish the most when we approach our work with the attitude of a servant. Not that we are subservient in any way, but that we approach our work with humility and the desire to be of service to others.
It is the exact same attitude that becomes so prevalent at this time of year. During the holidays it just seems natural and right to serve others. Yet, this attitude quickly dissipates when we return to the office in the New Year.
It doesn't need to be that way. The idea of servant leadership, of bringing humility and a servant’s attitude to our work, is something that we can and should do each and every day. It keeps us grounded and free of much of the psychological baggage that can cloud our judgment and become barriers to the true delivery of value.
As you bask in the glow of the holidays, remember how good this feels. It feels right to serve others and to use our talents in pursuit of something bigger than ourselves. It is a feeling that you can have every day. You simply have to choose it. It's a choice I hope you make: to live in the spirit of service each and every day of the year.
About the Author
Charles Araujo is the founder and CEO of The IT Transformation Institute, which is dedicated to helping IT leaders transform their teams into customer-focused, value-driven learning organizations. He is the author of the book The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change, is presently at work on two new books. Araujo is also the creator of DeepRoots, an organizational change methodology designed for IT teams. He frequently speaks and writes on a wide range of subjects related to his vision of the future of IT. You can follow him on Twitter as @charlesaraujo.
You can read his previous CIO Insight article, "A 'Call to Action' for IT Leaders," by clicking here.