Anyone who has ever been lost in the desert and had their life saved by stumbling across a cairn marking the trail appreciates that act of generosity. People who build cairns aren’t building them for themselves – they already know where the trail is. They are building them to guide those who come later, people they will never meet much less be thanked or paid by.
That is a beautiful metaphor for what servant leaders do in uncertain and challenging times like today. They show us the way through, give us hope that we can complete the journey, help us get back on the path when we lose our way.
Today, as crisis piles atop crisis, more than ever we need servant leaders who put the welfare of the community ahead of their own personal interests, leaders who build cairns that we can follow toward the dream of a better future. Here are seven things you can do to be that sort of leader:
One: Create a shared vision of the ultimate destination; unlike a physical destination, this vision is co-created through ongoing dialogue within the group.
Two: Give people the confidence to know that what appears to be a dead-end on the trail is really just a switchback, a detour and not a termination.
Three: They inspire the hope that is essential to spark the second (and third) wind to keep the group going when people think they are too exhausted to take another step.
Four: Bring up the stragglers; be committed to the principle that no one will be left behind.
Five: Know when to slow down, when to take a break, and when to backtrack if something is not working.
Six: Prevent people from panicking if they lose the trail. Follow the advice of Robert Louis Stevenson: keep your fears to yourself and share your courage with others.
Seven: Build cairns to guide those who come after; leave a legacy.
Management is a job description, leadership is a life decision. You do not need a title to be a cairn-building servant leader. You need only be willing to lead others on the journey.
The Perspective Promise and Leadership Each week I send a short video message to our Certified Values Coach Trainers across the country. I want to share this week’s video with you as well because the message is so important in today’s environment: maintaining a positive perspective to learn from and grow through adversity.