My mother recently had a total knee replacement. She is in her 70s and was worried about staying in hospital for a number of days and worried about how the operation might go. When we arrived, there was a nurse to greet her and made her feel very comfortable. She was shown to her bed and the nurse went through all the paperwork in a methodical but patient manner. The healthcare ‘machine’ kicked in and each stage of the process was initiated from another visit by a nurse, a visit by the Physiotherapist, a visit by the aftercare team, a visit by the Anaethetist and then a visit by the surgeon. There was a full day of total or partial knee replacements that day. My mother was offered tea and looked after impeccably. You might think this was a private hospital…yet this was the National Health Service (NHS).
When my mother was ready to leave the hospital a few days later, my mother called the nurses over and with a tear in her eye, she tried to express her gratitude to these people who only a few days before, were complete strangers. What had forged such a bond between these people? At home, my mother explained how these nurses had cared for her, and how they had done it with such pleasure. They washed her legs, rubbed cream in when they saw the skin was dry, they brought food to her and came to chat with her. The nurses shared with me, how they were going to miss my mother.
The NHS is sometimes in the headlines for poor service. We only ever hear of the exceptions. Everyday, there are people like my mother, going in for operations, being cared for and looked after. Thousands of people who are served and looked after, who walk away with tears in their eyes, full of gratitude, the silent majority, who know the value of those who serve.
What makes someone go out of their way and serve others in this manner? There is scientific evidence that as human beings, we gain as much pleasure in giving, as we do in receiving. We witness this every year, whether it is Christmas presents, birthday presents or any other event in between. When we have really thought about what someone would really like, the pleasure in watching them open their present is matched to the pleasure of the recipient opening it. This human trait, drives us to join voluntary organisations, charities and do work for the greater good, to help our communities. In the work environment, these nurses, Drs and healthcare professionals up and down the country, gain pleasure from helping others, to support others and to serve others. The very best hotels all over the world are full of people gaining pleasure in serving.
Servant leadership is a concept that has been around for many years. We assume the service comes from the ‘ground’ teams…but just imagine for a second…what would our world of work look like if organisations around the world, were made up of senior leadership teams, that were there to serve the teams they support…to be truly servant leadership organisations…what sort of world would we create then???