Servant leadership, the baby and the stairs

As my beautiful daughter undertook her first trip up the stairs not only did I feel a wave of emotion that she was growing up faster than I would like but also about servant leadership and Agile, I never stop thinking about Agile (not even when buried in a waterfall)

My daughter knew where she wanted to go and an instinct on how to get there. Those things are very important.

She was clear on the why (the mission), in this case I believe it was to retrieve her beloved doggy who was on the landing. She also had a good idea on the how, she had climbed single steps before to get between rooms so how hard could 14 steps be?

So armed with a desire and some previous simple experiments to arm her with some knowledge, she set off. On the first attempt she got a little over confident and lost her balance and bumped down a few steps. After the tears we set off again, I say we, this was her mission.

Following her up to step 5 she suddenly made a lunge for a glass lamp that you can get to through the banister (she wasn’t aware that grabbing and throwing a glass lamp would have undesirable consequences). So I grabbed the lamp and put it back on the shelf and set her focus back on climbing the stairs.

From then on she was getting quicker and more confident only occasionally losing her footing and I could put my hand under her to make sure she didn’t fall.

She got to the top of the stairs and retrieved dog, she was so pleased with her achievement she immediately demanded milk, shaking it furiously like Lewis Hamilton afer a recent Formula1 victory, I then closed the stair gate, exhausted by the sudden progress in her and realising the stairs were now a game.

On reflection I realised that I had just fallen back into servant leadership.
Lead when people ask to be led, at all other times see how you can serve. It was my role as someone with more experience not to tell/show her how to climb the stairs or to tell her she wasn’t allowed. It was something she wanted to do and I had no reason to stop her other than fear of the unknown.

I made sure I kept behind her to make sure she could make mistakes but nothing that would hurt her, bumping a few steps is something she can learn from, smashing lamps of falling the full flight of stairs isn’t what we want.

She figured out all by herself the correct movement for her to navigate the steps. Right leg first to push up and left for balance, I didn’t need to force her technique on her.

As leaders we don’t always need to set the mission (although we must ensure there is a visible mission) and we don’t always need to force our teams to follow a certain technique or working practice just because we think it’s the most effective.

As leaders we must inspire our teams, lead when we need to lead and serve when we need to serve ensuring our teams learn through making mistakes without putting themselves or the products, business or customer in danger.



One thought on “Servant leadership, the baby and the stairs

  1. lizsuch says:

    Thats tacit knowledge right there. Its fascinating watching how they can just do things without us teaching them how.

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