Forward thinking: The heart of leadership

Loren Simmonds

Her name was Bertha Evans . . .

Miss Evans to all her students, thank you. She was the prototype of an old maid school teacher – rather homely-looking, a frumpy dresser, frizzy hair and always, I repeat, always wore dark red lipstick.

But as a freshman in high school, even I recognized that Miss Evans had a passion for English Literature. And she loved the writings of William Shakespeare. I remember one class period in particular. We were “laboring” our way through a segment of The Merchant of Venice.

Quite unexpectedly, Miss Evans called out my name.  “Loren, what did Shakespeare mean when he said, ‘The world is a stage and every man has a part to play.”

Quite frankly, I don’t remember how I responded to her question. In retrospect it was probably neither correct nor appropriate. I do remember that my classmates broke out in laughter. However, I now believe that for the first time I was confronted with the question about the meaning and purpose of life.

Today, my response can be summarized in a single word – servanthood. You and I are here on planet Earth to be servants. We are not here merely to occupy space nor eat and drink from the good of the land. We are designed to make a positive difference with our lives.

While many best-selling books offer sage advice on how to get the most out of life, that’s not the reason we are here. We were created to add to life on planet Earth. We are all designed to give something back. And servanthood  is the pathway to a significant life.

Allow me to elaborate. . .

We live a world that defines greatness in terms of power, position, popularity and perks. If that is not enough p’s, you might also add  “prestige” and “possessions.” Can you imagine what kind of world we would have if we measured greatness in terms of service. . . not status?

Stated somewhat differently, what if our leaders’ greatness was measured not by how many people served them, but by how many they served. In our self-serving culture with its me-first attitude, thinking and acting like a servant is foreign and even unpopular.

Thousands of books have been written on leadership, but few on being a servant. Many want to lead; few want to be servants.

There is a critical question that begs to be answered by all of us . . .

Where is your heart when it comes to serving others?

Do you desire to become a leader for perks and benefits? Or are you motivated by a desire to help others?

If you really want to become the kind of leader that people want to follow, you will have to settle the issue of servanthood. If your attitude is to be served rather than serve, you may be headed for trouble.

If this is an issue in your life, then I share three lessons that I have learned in my three score and 17 years of living:

  • Stop lording it over people, and start listening to them.
  • Stop role playing for advancement, and start risking for others’ benefits.
  • Stop seeking your own way and serving others.

Those who would be great must be like the least and the servant of all.

Albert Schweitzer wisely stated, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

If you want to lead on the highest level, you must be willing to serve on the lowest. Examine your motivation for leading others today.

Until next time . . .

— By Loren Simmonds

 Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 37 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years, including eight as Council President. He remains active in the community by serving on the Parks and Recreation Foundation Board, Civil Service Commission and the Snohomish County Planning Commission. He believes that volunteerism sows the seeds of community. Loren is semi-retired and works as a writer, speaker and leadership coach.


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