A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way ~ John C. Maxwell
Just recently I have come across a new meaning for family Caregivers, one that I have learned while finishing my master’s degree in Leadership and Communication at Gonzaga University and that is the connection caregivers have to Servant Leadership.
Robert Greenleaf is known as the founder of Servant Leadership and once said: “The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve; to serve first. The conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is a leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.” While Servant Leadership focus is on Business, Managers and Work Place Culture, I see a connection to Caregivers as Servant Leaders because of our role to serve first, to advocate, to be the voice for those who could not speak, to put ourselves second.
Some of the characteristics of a work-place culture driven by Servant Leadership is that staff is fully engaged, feels a strong commitment to the cause, find purpose and have passion. Organizations who propose a culture of Servant Leaders are mindful of the whole, empower their employees to be connected and contributing. Stephen Covey was the “Greeenleaf” of leadership training for the military back in the 90’s, In Greenleaf (2002), Stephen Covey stated that, “The deepest part of human nature is that which urges people—each one of us—to rise above our present circumstances and to transcend our common nature. If you can appeal to it, you tap into a whole new source of human motivation.”
I see quite a bit of philosophy entwined between Servant Leadership and being a family caregiver. Caregivers are commitment to the cause, find purpose and have passion to care. Caregivers are mindful of their caree, while understanding that their caree needs to feel empowered, loved, connected and contributing. Because of the innate ability of the caregiver to think beyond self, caregiving and Servant Leadership goes hand-in-hand.
Organizations who commit to the philosophy of Servant Leadership will certainly understand the special needs of working family caregivers. These same organizations will be leaders in helping the working family caregiver reduce conflicts when an emergency arise and they have to choose between going to work, or staying home to care for their caree. Employers who understand their bottom-line and return on investment is vested in how they treat their most important customer, their employee, lead by example and reap all the benefits of having a work-place culture that promotes open dialogue and passion with employees.
You can’t put a price tag on employee morale, or can you?
We are all Servant Leaders in training, and our training in Servant Leadership is ongoing, it never stops. Servant Leadership is about relationships. Even after Caregiving has ended for me, I am still in training, learning how to care for myself while being present to my family, friends and co-workers. Life After Caregiving is about relationships, too. I see the connection to Servant Leadership and Caregiving, do you?
Oh…what did being a family caregiver mean to me? It meant the world! Because in the end, just as in the beginning of our caregiving journey, we were fortunate to have some of the most meaningful conversations with each other, while spending every second, minute, hour, day, month and year together.