I’d like to share with you one of my favorite descriptions of meaningful work. Don’t miss the fact that the leader in this example learned the power of purpose from her employee. This passage can be found in Richard Daft’s textbook “The Leadership Experience”:
Servant leadership can mean something as simple as encouraging others in their personal development and helping them understand the larger purpose in their work. When Linda Burzynski became president of Molly Maid International, she learned about servant leadership from one of her cleaners. Posing as a new member of the cleaning crew, Burzynski entered a home with her partner, Dawn, to find dishes piled high, food spilled on countertops, clothes and magazines strewn about, and pet hair everywhere. Surveying the mess, Burzynski was ready to walk out, but Dawn explained that the woman who owned the house was going through a divorce and dealing with three rebellious teenage sons. “She’s barely hanging on.” said Dawn, and having a clean house gave her a sense of order and control. Burzynski noticed that Dawn seemed to take extra care because she knew she was helping the woman with more than just her household chores. Burzynski says she learned that day about the power of being a servant to her employees and helping them find larger meaning in their difficult jobs. (pp. 232-233, 3rd edition).
People like Dawn both inspire and challenge me. As much as I know and write about leadership, I wonder if I have the character and presence to behave as Dawn did when similar situations present me with the opportunity to give myself permission to be excellent.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!