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March 2018

How servant leadership benefits the customer

We interact with others in myriad ways every day. Just like we were taught as children, the best way to navigate these interactions is by following two simple rules: Treat others as we want to be treated and treat others as they would want to be treated. These are not mutually exclusive concepts, and they offer a clearer perspective for both those who lead through service and those who follow the leader.

These simple rules are the foundation of servant leadership. I cannot effectively lead without serving the needs of those I lead. To be clear, this has nothing to do with titles or rank, but everything to do with respect, integrity and, ultimately, strength of character. All three qualities are earned by your actions, and through those actions you acquire authority. Have you ever walked into a room, not knowing titles of those present, and been wowed by someone who presented these qualities? Have you seen the dynamics of the conversation change as the authority transitions to this individual? If so, you have experienced something fundamental to leadership at all levels: Authority is earned, not demanded.

A servant leader is someone who addresses the needs of those they lead, giving them the tools they need to excel in their roles and with their peers. Our places of employment should be inspiring, rewarding and fulfilling, all of which create a positive culture. The ultimate beneficiary of this culture is the customer.

I don’t care how hard you try. If you don’t have a culture that truly listens to and supports the needs of those you lead, you will never achieve a sustained positive customer experience.

I am sure nothing I have said is anything you haven’t thought about before, and I know many of you reading this article already lead this way. As with anything we want to do well, we need to focus and live the philosophy daily—especially when it is not easy. Despite the time it takes to earn the respect of others, it only takes one mistake to lose it all and could take years to reestablish it.

Kurt Myers

2017–2018 AAMVA Chair of the Board