He was perhaps the first great service leader – building a career and world renowned company by being of service to others – customers, employees and the public at large.
Henry Ford knew that service was the key to success.
Much of what Ford believed in applies even more so today. As a leader, service to others is vital to nurturing loyalty, building a strong brand and having a positive impact on the world.
Here is what Ford had to say and how it can be applied to the leader in all of us.
1. “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”
Service makes good business sense. It’s also the key to career growth. Yet, it’s hard to find. Make service your reason for being in business. Service isn’t just “customer service”. It’s also helping others, treating people with respect, and showing that you care.
Think, talk and act “service.”
Definition of a Service Leader:
Service leaders put the needs of customers, employees and communities first. They believe their success is measured upon the extent to which they are able to help others. If you are not a service leader, then you are a leader whose primary purpose is to serve yourself.”
2. “The moment one gets into the ‘expert’ state of mind, a great number of things become impossible.”
In Ford’s lifetime, as now, there are self-proclaimed experts everywhere. But in Ford’s mind, an expert was someone who knew why something could not be done. Don’t be an expert. Instead, be an innovator, a dreamer – someone who doesn’t know that something can’t be done. Your team and your clients don’t need an expert. They need empathy, support and genuine help.
It’s about believing that people can do anything.
3. “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”
The customer. That’s the real boss of any business. Ford understood that. Today, many businesses are there to serve themselves. The customer is secondary or worse yet, an annoyance. You’re not working for your manager. You’re working for the people served by your organization.
The service leader listens carefully to the one person who pays all of the bills.
4. “With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about?”
What will be, will be. If we use up our valuable time worrying, we won’t have any time left to be of service. Let go of all the things you cannot control. Focus on what you can. That includes the priority of serving others.
The service leader sheds the burden of worry, replacing it with the action of helping others.
5. “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”
Too many people talk about the things they will do without follow-up. Leaders who talk big but choose not to support their words with action lose credibility quickly. If we are to serve our team and our clients, they need to believe in us. That belief only comes through doing, not talking.
“Do” more than you talk.
6. “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”
If money is the only motivation and the only reward, there will be a great sense of emptiness. Business is more than making money. Your job as leader is to explain how your company and your team are making a difference in this world. In essence, how you’re being of service. Articulate the “cause” and encourage others to defend and promote that cause.
Work for a cause, not applause.
7. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Leaders serve their constituents by pointing the way. They think beyond the general consensus. Service leadership is much more than asking “how can I help?” It’s really about “here are other ideas” and “here is something we can do.”
Service leaders are innovative and original, offering new ideas to serve.
8. “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs”
Ford is famous for his assembly line. Each aspect of manufacturing was broken into its own small phase in a bigger process. As leaders, our challenge is to break things down for people.
Be of service by making work manageable, not overwhelming.
9. “You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.”
Guiding, coaching, teaching – all attributes of the servant leader. But helping others does not require a position. Being a strong leader does not mean having to be CEO or manager. Many CEOs are not leaders – they are administrators. Every organization needs real leaders at all levels, people who can inspire others and move the agenda forward. The new hire, the receptionist, the seasoned pro about to retire, and you – regardless of your position – all potential service leaders.
Lead with service, with, or without, a position.
10. “To do more for the world than the world does for you – that is success.”
Ford was on a mission – to make automobiles affordable for the average family. What is your mission? It doesn’t have to be earth shattering or ground breaking. It just needs to make this world a little bit better, if only for one person.
What you do really does matter.
Henry Ford was among the first business leaders to hire minorities and people with disabilities.
He increased the wages of his employees so they could afford to buy his cars.
Ford’s obsession with efficiency and innovation served his customers well.