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Server Servant Leadership

This week we had a virtual session for class. I like those during online courses because it adds a personal element of online education that can be embraced. Plus seeing everyone in the class is fun for me.

This week we talked about servant leadership, and it reminded me of when I realized what it meant to me. When I first started waiting tables, I was awful at it. I would forget drinks, condiments, and anything extra. My life was constantly table to kitchen to table, rinse and repeat. The general manager of the restaurant had no time to assign training duties, so I had to take cues from other waiters, but in that restaurant, another waiter meant fewer tables for them. If someone else greeted your table, then that meant the table was theirs. It was ruthless and 22-year-old me wasn’t ready for that part of my life. I did ok, but if I had proper training and patience, I would’ve been better.

Fast forward a decade, I started another server position in a new city. When I started at this place I was still just doing ok, until I had an $8 night. I left that evening defeated. I was in a new town, meeting new people, and the week started off terribly. With all the training, tools, and talent I still felt like I hadn’t done my job; because if I had, my wallet would reflect that. That’s when I started asking myself, “What is my job?” The answer I told myself was it was to make sure no one left the building hungry. That newfound idea helped me relax and put things into perspective for my mindset.

Shifting that mindset for me made me start to understand the importance of having those people in our lives that guide us, along with the absence of those same people. You don’t have to have a fancy title or be the top dog at your place of employment to be considered a leader. To me, servant leadership isn’t about telling people you’re doing just that. It’s about listening and observing, and saying to yourself, “I’ve seen what happens when others don’t have support.” So while an employee is trying to help others, having someone that is there to help them can go a long way.

Now this can be dangerous if you don’t set internal boundaries, because that can open you up to people-pleasing and a whole array of toxic traits. The focus is to help others while balancing your own peace. While servant leadership has resulted in negative outlooks for others, in my case I can embrace it because it’s not for show. It’s a genuine feeling of my experience of not having a support system understanding the need to better for others.

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