What is more important? Relationship or Excellence?
In servant leadership, which is more important: good relationship or the pursuit of excellence?
A challenging question.
This matter is tested daily in the workplace. Office teams work collaboratively to accomplish goals; relationships are essential to the process. Yet, the business must perform better than the competitors – requiring excellence in strategy, teamwork, analysis and execution.
In a restaurant, each team member has a specific role and must work with others to get the job done well – cooking the food, packing the order, serving the guest, and cleaning the restaurant. So which takes precedence – the relationship between the team members or the need for excellence?
If you aspire to be a servant leader, you must have both – relationships AND excellence.
Leaders tend to think these two things are at odds. If you are a person who develops highly effective relationships, you tend to believe that relationships are the most important thing. You may tend to give up on excellence for the sake of the relationship. If you are a leader who values excellence in your work, you tend to think that excellence should prevail. You don’t want to compromise standards for the sake of the relationship.
Relationship and excellence are two “goods.” Pursuing both “goods” delivers the best outcome.
Let’s start with excellence. Excellence means high quality or exceptional outcomes. The opposite of excellence is: averageness, inferiority, mediocrity, ordinariness, worthlessness. Few people want to do mediocre, worthless work. So if you are a relationship-focused leader, do not bristle at people who challenge your team towards excellence. They are the standard bearers. They push decisions through a filter of excellence so that the team and company are well-served.
Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
Now for relationship. Relationship means the state of having shared interests or efforts.Relationship at work is a partnership, a collaboration, an alliance. The opposite of relationship is division, separation, and disassociation. Few people want to work in a divisive environment without shared interests and efforts. If you are an excellence-focused leader, don’t bristle at people who challenge you to have better relationships. They are collaborators. They push decisions through a filter of the effect on the relationship so that the team and company are well-served.
We’re all working together; that’s the secret.
Sam Walton on the secret behind Wal-Mart’s success
Servant leaders embrace both: healthy relationships and the pursuit of excellence. They push decisions through BOTH filters, so that the team and the company are well-served.
Here’s my challenge to you. If you are a relationship-focused person, go find a leader focused on excellence and learn from them. If you are an excellence-focused leader, go find a leader focused on relationship and learn from them. Let’s advance our understanding of servant leadership with BOTH excellence and relationships in mind.