Serving others

Tuesday night, I went out to dinner on The Strip. The restaurant was busy, and I was waiting to place my order.

The manager noticed. He stopped to pull out a piece of paper and pen from his iridescent blue sport coat. He scribbled down my order, refilled my water and cashed out a large party.

He joked that he was just the dishwasher, but from what I observed, I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back to the kitchen, rolled up his sleeves and started washing dishes. No task was beneath him, and he would do whatever was necessary to help his staff and ensure customers had a pleasant experience.

In my opinion, this man was a level 5 leader.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, has spent years studying organizations. He has developed a five-point leadership ranking system. It’s easy to distinguish between poor and good service, he says, but more difficult to describe the difference between a good and great service.

And yet, we know it when we feel it. It’s why we recommend products or services and why we develop brand loyalty. It’s also why we respect companies like Disney, Marriott or Southwest—and why they’re often the subject of academic case studies.

Collins, speaking at the 68th annual American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living Convention and Expo, described his decades of research. In essence, it boils down to this: “Success is not individual, it is communal,” he says. “We only achieve our best when we help each other succeed.”

Many organizations are good. What separates the good from the great is leaders who serve with humility and who are subservient to purpose. “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to become the leader that your enterprise needs?” Collins asks.

Those are level 5 leaders, and they’re cut from a different cloth. In doing so, those leaders are not merely leading the team, they are part of the team. They make the team stronger. Collins found that to be true across industries and the common link among top-performing organizations.

It’s no coincidence the best places to work have lower staff turnover and higher employee satisfaction. In long term care specifically, those organizations also have higher resident satisfaction and happier families. That’s one reason why they earn 5-Star ratings on Nursing Home Compare and why they stack the deck in our annual Leaders of Tomorrow competition.

It’s not a secret that people want to be led, loved and valued. But it’s still one of the best kept secrets with respect to great leadership.

If you are ever lucky enough to visit The Noodle Shop in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, I hope you have the pleasure of being served by the manager. His quiet, patient and servant leadership is an inspiration. Try the dumplings. They're pretty great, too. 

Topics: Leadership