Some time ago, I was crossing the street in a pedestrian crosswalk. The little green person on the other side was clearly lit, so I believed it was safe to cross. But there was one detail I overlooked... A car was coming fast in my direction with no sign of slowing down. For a split second I wondered: Is this guy going to run the red light? Is he going to hit me?



Fortunately, the reckless driver stopped abruptly at a safe distance from my fragile legs. But for a fraction of a second, I was so scared that I waved my hands at him thinking, "Come on man, be more considerate!"

Every driver is also a pedestrian. What I learned from that incident is I can show a little courtesy to pedestrians by anticipating their concerns and slowing down at a reasonable distance to assure them they are safe. It's a simple step really, but it requires us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.


Once my heart returned to its normal pace and I was able to think clearly after the scare, it occurred to me this same lesson of anticipating others' needs applies to servant leadership. Robert Greenleaf defined servant leadership as “the kind of leadership that is modeled through service.” This leadership focuses on people (the client, employee, church member, team member, etc.) rather than the task at hand or the bottom line.

Servant leadership at its best anticipates
people’s needs and shapes the circumstances
to satisfy and exceed their expectations.

That reckless driver could have anticipated his fast approach would scare me and could have slowed, or even stopped, a little farther away. Applied to leadership, we can try to predict what people are thinking to "wow" and exceed expectations. Here are four ways you can apply "the wow factor" through authentic servant leadership.

  1. Anticipate client expectations of a clean establishment. Whether a restaurant, church, or warehouse have a clean and tidy facility, then exceed expectations by warming it up with fresh flowers and free coffee or cookies at the door.

  2. Anticipate vendor expectations to pay on time, then exceed expectations by sending your check a day early.

  3. Anticipate team member expectations to love them, then exceed expectations by inviting their families to dinner while refraining from business talk.

  4. Anticipate church visitor expectations for courtesy from greeters, then wow them by genuinely noticing and celebrating their presence, showing them around, and offering care for their children.


These are just some of the many ways we can "wow" those we serve. What can you do to anticipate and exceed expectations? What are you waiting for?

by Norival Trindade