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Leadership 101: Who comes first, The Employee or the Customer?

Looking through my email newsfeed I saw a title of an article that posed an interesting question - Treating Employees as Customers by Kraig Eaton and Himanshu Tambe. Kind of reminded me of the chicken or the egg question. “Which came first, the servant or the leader?”

Robert Greenleaf coined the servant leadership phrase in 1970 when he first published an essay, The Servant as Leader. The original concept of servant leadership goes back at least two thousand years, and the Servant Leadership model is gaining traction as a viable model due to principles of empathy, mindfulness, kindness, honesty, . According to Greenleaf, “the servant-leader is servant first.” It is the desire to serve that is the characteristic quality of this leadership model that is its heart and soul. It is not about being servile or a servant, but about a real desire to want to help others.

Some of the professional environments where I worked were miserable hell holes due to tyrannical leadership that truly seemed to desire to squash the human heart and spirit. I am sure everyone that reads this can relate and quickly recall a horrible leader. Yet, there were and are fantastic leaders that stand out in your mind when you do a quick query.

As an entrepreneur, I believe I have a responsibility to lead and serve my staff, interns, contractors, vendors, and colleagues with the same care as clients. Who do we really serve? We are taught in business school to focus on sales (a process) and it is reinforced throughout the organizations we use as conduits to get the word out about our services and products. However, we do business with people, not companies, because we build relationships with them. Business relationships should be nurtured and valued for them to grow.

So I challenging leaders, business colleagues and peers to see that the relationship you should respect as much as the client relationship are the employees in your firm. They have contact with your prospects and clients in ways that are invisible and overlooked. From your website, social media marketing, printer, accountant, attorney, and the person that answers the phone and account rep that solves problems. They all represent you and your brand. Their voice matters as much as the client, remember you lead best when you serve them also.

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