“Did I REALLY Sign Up For This?!” Moment: The Servant Leader

Posted June 20, 2018 in Latest News & Insights

By Jennifer Campbell; Marketing Strategy Leader

In celebration of Did I REALLY Sign Up For This?! hitting shelves, we’ve invited members of The Roundtable community to share their own “did I really sign up for this?!” moments, which we’ll be sharing over the coming weeks. These are times when things have gone to sh*t (been there!), when they’ve thought that perhaps they aren’t cut out to be a leader (ditto!). One is so juicy the author even requested to remain anonymous! We hope you’ll enjoy the candour and vulnerability shown by these amazing leaders.

After reading a Harvard Business Review article about Servant Leadership recently, I was taken back to a memory of my first “real” job, right after I completed my undergrad, working in Human Resources at a Toronto hotel, which, at the time, was the largest convention hotel in Canada.

I started working there in November. And November was the start of the banquet season. Day after day of dinners for 2,000 people. Extra staff to be hired. All hands on deck.  A hotel is a beautiful, always-on machine. Everyone steps in to help. Even if you have never in your life been a food server. Never, ever.

On a cold Saturday night, nervously carrying large, heavy platters of meat and vegetables at a French-service dinner for the Ontario Government Quarter Century Club employee celebration, I learned some of the important fundamentals of Servant Leadership that, to this day, carry me through my ever-expanding and ever-evolving roles.   

Awareness. A leader needs to see the situation, and the people, from an integrated, holistic position. In this case, people dressed in their finest, anticipating a great, spill free meal.

Empathy. The insight that we can benefit from the expertise of those with less power than us.  Thankfully, I was surrounded by banquet staff with a lot of expertise who were happy to show me the ropes.

Courage. Sometimes the leader has to admit to not having an answer, and ask for help from those who might, regardless of their role or level. See above.

Humility. A strong leader will appreciate something greater than oneself and admit to mistakes. Despite my degree and accomplishments to date, I was surrounded by people who could serve banquets—and parade flaming Baked Alaska—in their sleep. A truly impressive sight.

My assigned table guests enjoyed their evening—and not one dry-cleaning bill was submitted. And it certainly wasn’t the last time I jumped in to help a business run.

There is a quote that I refer to from time to time. One that was literally brought to life that cold November evening so many years ago, when I was just starting out on my career journey, and one that has formed my leadership style over the years while building and leading teams to accomplish amazing things:

“If serving is below you, then leadership is beyond you.” —Anonymous.

That pretty much says it all.

Want to share your own “did I REALLY sign up for this?!” moment? Email us here. Don’t have your own copy of Did I REALLY Sign Up For This?! yet? Head over here to grab one!


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