Our Need to Serve

Jim Collins says that people “want to be involved in something that just flat-out works,” but I believe it is something more.  I believe that people have a great need to connect with or serve something larger than themselves.  Whether it’s building a skyscraper, embarking on a campaign to eradicate hunger, working on the design of an award-winning advertising campaign, or even dressing in favorite NFL team colors and attending all the home games – people need to connect to a larger purpose or endeavor.

Great leaders understand this basic human need and have the ability to create that connection for their followers; unfortunately, not always to good purpose-witness Hitler’s rise to power and spell-binding hold on the German people or, in recent times, the illusion of success created by the leaders of ENRON before its financial collapse.

But the connection I am talking about need not be a life-altering cause or event.  Most of us live rather uneventful lives.  While our need is to earn a living and support our families, an astute leader recognizes the opportunity to create something out-of-the-ordinary – a special enterprise that performs better than others and is a source of purpose and pride for all.

In connecting people to the challenge of creating something special, the leader feeds the employees’ need to do something beyond self while advancing the purpose of the enterprise.  All that is necessary is for the leader to frame the challenge in terms of shared goals.  In the service industry this is a fairly simple task. Our purpose is to serve.  The quality of our service encourages customers and repeat business, which in turn ensures the success of the enterprise for the owners, and, ultimately, the job security and advancement opportunities of everyone involved.

Throughout my career, I have met many eager, enthusiastic young people, some just starting out their adult lives and relishing the opportunity of their first jobs.  Unfortunately for most, their youthful idealism is crushed pretty quickly by the realities of the workplace, particularly when they are not well-led, when they are not properly trained or supported, and when they are treated as if they didn’t matter.

At the same time, I’ve heard managers complain about the poor state of the labor pool and their inability to find decent employees who have commitment to their jobs.  Listening to such complaints I have to wonder what steps these individuals have taken to motivate their employees, to provide training and meaningful work experiences, to connect their workers’ labors to a larger effort.

To expect that the wide variety of applicants for positions will inherently know and understand a leader’s vision and the values that underlie the enterprise’s efforts is foolish.  All employees, whether first-time job seekers or those who have worked in a variety of jobs and settings, need the vision of connecting to a larger purpose, and they need a Service-Based Leader who can provide them the meaningful employment that serves their greater needs.

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking managers throughout the country and around the world.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply