Are Leaders Servants?

“Passion is everything.  A leader can’t inspire without it.  When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” ~ Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks

close up photography of starbucks disposable cup

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Leadership.

It’s a big responsibility.

I signed up for a CEU class thru my alma mater, Columbia Southern University.  The class is titled, “Servant Leadership.”  Something I never really thought about.

Actually, come to learn, I DID think about it. I practice it.  I just never had a name to put on it.  You can find the definition here.  There are many well known companies that practice servant leadership — AFLAC, Southwest Airlines, Marriot International, Starbucks (hence the photo above — and I love me some Starbucks!), Synovus Financial, and Herman Miller to name a few.  If you would like a more complete list from Fortune Magazine, go here.  *** For some interesting reading, Google ” (insert business name here) and servant leadership” — some of the articles you will find share the foundations and beginnings of some of these well known companies.

This is not to say that EVERY employee, vendor or customer has had a stellar experience with these companies.  Experience is based on perception.  Some companies are very clear that they do not hire experience, they hire attitude.  So if a new hire is not willing to start in a menial job, thinking they are above such lowly work — that attitude shows they will not be successful in this company.  In an industry led by servant leadership, even the CEO or president is willing to do whatever task is at hand to contribute to building up not only the company but also employee relations and morale.  The line that divides administration from employees in many companies is blurred or missing in those companies practicing servant leadership.

While servant leadership is most commonly applied to companies, industries and business . . .  it is also applicable to home.

As a leader in my home, it is my responsibility as a parent to serve my children.  Not as in bow down, scrape, give-them-everything-they-ask-for, and wait on them hand-and-foot.  My job is to set the example – in all areas.

  • I go to work, they go to school.  Here we compare that to their job.  If you haven’t sat thru any period of time in public school recently, it is not easy.  It is noisy, demanding, rushed, varied, and stressful.
  • I do chores, I expect them to do chores.  If no one does them, they don’t get done.
  • I cannot expect them to keep their area clean if my room is a mess.  If I want them to make their beds, I have to make my bed.

What occurred to me last night, though, wasn’t even on my mind when I began thinking of this blog post.  Actually, servant leadership in the home wasn’t even an aspect I had considered.

I was tired.  We’ve had heavy snow, schools were closed and my grandson was here with us during the day.  My daughter has been staying with us for several days over the holidays and yesterday she spent 3 hours, yes — HOURS — in the bathroom getting ready.  Actually she was bopping between the bathroom and cooking in the kitchen.  But all of her hair products, straighteners, clips, makeup, clothes were scattered in the bathroom to where no one could use the facilities, let alone shower.  I was trying to be thoughtful as I thought she had to be at work . . . no, she didn’t.  But when she finally cleared out, she announced she had to give her son a shower.  No! No, no, no, no!  It is 11 am and I have things to do and I AM TAKING A SHOWER!!!  Your child is staying with me today and is not going anywhere until tomorrow, he does not NEED a shower right this minute.

 

My job in that moment was to set the example of how to handle frustration.

I didn’t yell.  I didn’t throw her stuff out of the bathroom (altho it was tempting).

I remained calm and explained the illogicality in her reasoning that her son required a shower that instant.  I pointed out that as the homeowner and an adult, I was not going to go to the post office, the store, the hardware store or anywhere else on my errands with bed head and post-sleep ick stuck to my skin.  (I am not normally “icky” when I sleep, but I had the bed warmer on and a little guy that puts out heat like a furnace sleeping with me and I was resultingly slightly sweaty when I woke up.)

Long story, short — if we want our children to grow up exhibiting characteristics of servant leadership, it has to be taught at home.  They cannot appreciate or practice it when they get older if they have no concept of it.

What’s in a Name?

“Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness.” — Anne Albers

I’m not one much for abstract art.

To be honest, I stink at discerning different types of arts or periods or whatever they’re called. If it wasn’t for the JumpStart 5th grade computer program, I would know nothing. I simply do not recall these things from high school art class. I do, however, remember how to draw things from a perspective point — at least I think that’s what it’s called?

A classmate from high school occasionally posts paintings that he’s done. I saw this one, scrolled past it thinking to myself, “Nice.”

A bit later I scrolled back to it for another look. And then again. And then a fourth time. Each time I looked at it, it kind of grew on me. So I reached out to ask about purchasing the painting for my home.

Tonight we met at a local Starbucks and chatted for a long while. Not having seen each other in 33 years, there was some major catching-up to be done! During the conversation, I asked the name of the painting. He hesitated briefly and then said, “The Serenity for the Damned.”. Then he watched my face expectantly for my reaction — partially wary, partially concerned.

I had to laugh as I showed him my IG account and pointed out that the name of our home is ” Serenity.” I finally determined that looking at the painting reminds me of going interior on a structure fire. The dark background, the mix of reds — much like what we see thru our SCBA mask when fighting a fire. Firefighting is a job I loved. A job I miss immensely.

Many would say that the interior of a structure fire is hellish, a place for the damned. For the firefighter who loves their job, that same location offers a sense of serenity. A sense of peace in knowing the job is being done.

I love this painting! I’m not one much for abstract art, but I’m learning that what appeals to the senses doesn’t always make sense.

Comfort measures

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” ~ Jane Austen

cozy-socks-by-fire

Today is a stay-at-home kind of day.

I don’t feel good. I’m coughing, my head is stuffy and I don’t really want to see anybody.

It’s a good day to cook.

Roast in the crockpot, creamy cucumber salad chilling in the fridge and an acorn squash ready to be cut, oiled, salted and sprinkled with cinnamon for roasting.

Easy Crockpot Roast

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • a 1 – 2 pound boneless chuck roast
  • 1 can French onion soup
  • 1 can beef consomme
  • 1/2 packet brown gravy mix
  • 1/2 packet Italian dressing mix
  • 1/2 jar pepperoncini peppers w/ juice

Directions

Rinse the roast and place fatty side up in a crockpot.  Pour in the two cans of soup.  Sprinkle the roast with the 1/2 packets of brown gravy mix and Italian dressing mix.  Top with half the jar of pepperoncini peppers w/ juice.  Cook on low 6-8 hours.  Roast will be fork tender and fall apart when ready.

While I may make instant mashed potatoes for the kids, I have an alternative in creamy cucumber salad.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • a medium cucmber
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 a fresh lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 t. pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 t. fresh dill weed (but you can use dried)
  • 1/4 t. fresh ground pepper

Directions

Set the cucumber aside.  In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients until smooth.  Slice the ends off the cucumber and cut in half (for ease of dicing).  Using a vegetable peeler, peel strips of the skin to give a striped appearance, leaving strips of skin on for variety.  Slice both halves of the cucumber and dice.  Stir into dressing until coated well.  Chill until time to serve.

I have to say that while food tastes the same regardless of how it’s presented, presentation can make food more appealing.  Therefore, if you think it’s stupid to peel alternating strips of cucumber skin, just to make it pretty . . . don’t do it!  But it does give it a more festive flair, even if you’re just eating at home with the kids.

Laundry is done and put away.  Groceries have been purchased.

I have typed the requested cover letter and sent it along with the resume in hopes of obtaining the job of my dreams.

Now . . . if I could just get the firewood guy to answer . . . .

Life Changing Decisions

“You write your life story by the choices you make. You never know if they have been a mistake. Those moments of decision are so difficult.” ~ Hellen Mirren

forked road

Several weeks ago, I made a decision to pursue a job that I enjoy. My current employer had an opening, so I applied for a transfer hoping to stay with the same company.

My boss denied it.

Being the tenacious person I am, I followed the chain of command and appealed to her boss, the CEO. I wrote a letter detailing my desire to remain with the company while pursuing a different path, offered to take a 50% cut in pay, and found my own replacement in a staff member already employed.

He denied it, choosing to support my boss in her decision.

I decided to actively pursue a position elsewhere. I did not attend all the hours of training and achieve the certifications as well as work to obtain a 4.0 GPA in my last two degrees to remain in a position where I feel that I am spinning my wheels. Unfortunately, positions in my area are either few and far between, OR I am passed over when the recruiter sees my level of education and assumes my salary requirement cannot be met.

This past week, as I said my daily prayers, I asked for a spirit of thankfulness. Not just because it is almost Thanksgiving, but because I was finding myself increasingly angry. I do not like being angry, it’s not pleasant . . . it uses energy that I don’t want to waste. Even this morning, I prayed for the ability to remain thankful in my current position as long as I needed to be there until I can find a different position. Not that I planned on stopping my search, but I honestly believe that God has plans for each one of us and knowing my heart, HE also has the perfect job in mind for me.

I recently received an e-mail from Dan Miller of 48 Days to the Job You Love. The following list was included in the e-mail. Of the ten items listed, I have been experiencing at least eight of these in the past three weeks:

Top 10 Ways To Know When To Leave a Job

  • Your opinions don’t count
  • You are as tired when you get up as when you went to bed
  • Respect is lacking
  • You’ve lost your sense of purpose
  • Communication has broken down
  • You have serious doubts about your ability to make a difference
  • You find yourself avoiding others at work
  • You are chronically impatient with everyone
  • You find yourself starting to dread Monday morning on Saturday afternoon
  • The work or product does not line up with your values

Pan ahead to the present day —

This week, I have been in one of my favorite locations — Anniston, Alabama. Home to the DHS Center for Domestic Preparedness. This has been my ninth time coming here for training. Once-in-a-lifetime type of training that you can get nowhere else in the U.S. I love being here. I feel energized and excited, surrounded by people in like positions with similar passions for emergency services and emergency management as well as response and mitigation activities. The staff is wonderful, the teachers are friendly and engaging and even the cooks and housekeeping staff do their best to make us feel welcome.

This morning, during an integrated exercise with another class, I was speaking with the head of a training division. We spoke about my desire to find a different position and the fact that I had been denied my transfer. At that point, he asked if I were looking for another position and explained that he needed additional female instructors in an area for which I am credentialed, trained and enjoy. This position also includes working in a high-risk environment on a regular basis. We discussed requirements, salary, cost of living and schools in the area as it would require me moving to this location. I was then instructed to submit my resume and cover letter, not to the company which contracts the instructors, but directly to him.

Are you kidding me? Just this morning, God and I had a conversation about my ability to remain thankful for as long as I needed to remain in my current position. I don’t want my discontent and anger to spill over to my staff. I try to promote the facility for which I work, but when you feel unheard or under-appreciated and used, it is difficult to remain upbeat and present a favorable impression. And then to have this offered to me?

While I am excited about the possibility, I am also afraid. Afraid of moving away from family. Afraid of uprooting my children from their friends. Afraid of looking for a home and moving. Afraid of my ex-‘s reaction if I get a job offer. Afraid of failing if this is not the right job.

So now, I am choosing to believe that if this is the position that God has intended for me, I will not only receive a job offer, but things for the move will fall into place.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11

Who You Say I Am

“I keep fighting voices in my head that say I’m not enough.  Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up.” ~ Lauren Daigle

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The quote above is from a popular song by Christian artist, Lauren Daigle.  The gist of the song is that regardless of how we see ourselves, God tells us that we are enough — that we are loved.  The chorus is as follows:

“You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing.
You say I am strong when I think I am weak,
And You say I am held when I am falling short.
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours.”

Oftentimes, the view we have of ourselves is skewed based on past experiences.  We have a tendency to weigh the present and the future against our past.  Scientists have predicted with great accuracy the ratio of positive-to-negative interactions needed to positively impact many aspects of our life.  That magic number is 5:1.

For every negative experience or comment, it requires FIVE positive experiences or comments just to negate the one negative. (Does this make it a double negative?!?) Anyway . . . 

This formula has been used to successfully predict work performance and even marriage success.  Based on 15-minute conversations with 700 newlywed couples, tallying their positive-to-negative comments, scientists predicted which couples would divorce.  Ten years later, their predictions were 94% accurate.  Was the divorce based solely on this factor?  Probably not.  But how much of this actually had an effect on the marriage and/or contribute to the dissatisfaction in the marriage?

All of this to say . . . 

I am struggling some days.  Much like my reflection in the photo above, my view of myself is distorted based on past experience. (Yes, that is actually a photo I took of myself in a mirrored panel at Sheridan’s Custard in Belton, Missouri.)  Being privy to my own thoughts, I have difficulty reconciling my perception of who I am to the perception others have of me.

To me, what I do is just . . . what I do. 

  • I wanted to learn, so I went to school and got multiple degrees.  Anyone can do that.
  • I sign-up for free training to learn even more.  Anyone can do that.
  • I went to the fire academy and became a hazmat tech.  There are a lot of those.
  • I like to read, therefore I know a lot of facts and trivia.  Anyone can do that.

I guess my thought is that there is nothing I have done, that many others before me and probably after me, haven’t done as well or will do.  I look around at the people in my classes, and the people I work with and I think what a privilege it is to even be in the same room, doing the things I do.  What a gift it is to have all these opportunities available . . . I just chose to avail myself of the possibilities.

So, we come to the last two lines of the chorus:

“I believe, oh I believe.                                                               What you say of me, Yes I believe.”

 

HOW do I learn to believe?

 

 

Tuesday Thoughts

brown wooden framed gold open printed decorative signage

Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

“Always think outside the box and embrace opportunities that appear, wherever they might be.”  ~~ Lakshmi Mittal

Working nights takes the concept of “normal life” outside the box and puts it somewhere in the margins.  For those who do not or have never worked nights . . . you cannot comprehend. Further compounding the problems is when the night shift occurs on a rotating basis.

Days and nights.  Weeks and months.  Weekends blur into the week somewhere and if it weren’t for the 24 hr clock setting on military time as well as a watch that shows the day and date, I’d be completely lost.

Much like Platform 9 3/4 in the Harry Potter series, I often feel that nightshifters share a weird paradigm between days and nights that only those who work nights can enter or understand.  What seems normal to a nightshifter seems odd to those around us.  If nightshift workers are wizards, day shifters are definitely muggles.

Take sleeping during the day with room darkening blinds and shades, for example.  During the daylight hours, my room is dark (as in almost completely black.)  When the sky is overcast or it’s raining out, my room is even darker than usual.  My body needs it, my mind needs it and I sleep so deeply that at times I wake up — disoriented and unsure if I’ve overslept.  There is no way to open your eyes in a dark room and determine what time it is without the aid of a timepiece.  My room while I sleep offers me the cloak of invisibility, or so I like to think.

Mealtimes are at odd hours and consist of bizarre and unlikely food choices for the time of day.  Pizza at 2 am?  Of course — when you’re heading home from being up all night a chesseburger sounds delicious! I generally take my lunch break between 4:30 and 5 am – 1) because I’m a good supervisor who waits and makes sure all the employees have had a break and I’ve relieved them, and 2)  because I take a 30 minute nap which saves my shift and myself.  If Harry can eat ice creams every day as he did in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I can eat what I want, when I want while I’m working.

Historically, nightshifts workers are often seen by their dayshift peers as lazy.  Far from it!  Nightshift workers have to exhibit more fortitude and strength of character in their work since administration is usually at home, spending time with their families and tucked up in their beds while we work.  Nightshifters have to rely on policies and common sense to make decisions rather than having someone to whom they can go to request help with a decision or problem.  Harry Potter’s world isn’t a separate place, rather it’s a world within a world which is functioning at it’s own pace.  While there are leaders available in the professors and teachers, the characters solve many of their own problems by putting their heads together and working as a team — consummate nightshifters.