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Leading From Service

by Dan Atkinson

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about leadership. Many of us lead without knowing it: our clients, our colleagues, our associates in the wider financial planning profession.

A good leader knows that their leadership should adapt to the need at hand. A leader with the wrong intent may end up manipulating others. But what would our leadership look like if we were all motivated by service?

Start With An Attitude Of Service

A number of years ago a speaker shared with me that the motto of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, who train British Army Officers, is ‘Serve to Lead’. It struck a chord with me and I believe that as leaders, we should be motivated to serve others.

A leader motivated by serving others will command the respect of others because they care – not because of fear. If we have the interests of others as our priority, we will be more effective and forgiving. That’s the sort of leader I want to be!

Service Leadership From Above

Instead of leading in a way that intimidates people, a service leader seeks to provide shelter and direction.

In the past I’ve provided this shelter by fielding questions and concerns on behalf of teams that I’ve led. This has enabled them to concentrate and focus on the work that only they can do.

Service Leadership From The Front

Some people like to stand at the front of a room and soak up the moment. They want to be respected. However, a service leader gains respect because they invest in others. They seek to equip others for success. The role of a leader in this situation is to inspire.

In many ways the writers of the blogs on this website lead in this way. They want to share what they have learned or experienced for the benefit of others.

Service Leadership Alongside

What is leading alongside? This is when your success is measured by that of your teammate. Something to aspire to would be the guide/athlete partnership in the Paralympics.

To be successful in leading alongside we should seek to serve by showing the way, guiding, and enabling the success of others. We encourage them along on their journey and help them gain clarity on the destination.

I think this is exactly what a financial planner should be doing with their clients.

Leading Clients

There are moments where we need to be each type of leader. We shelter clients from complexity along their journey. We help inspire them to see and plan for their best life. We come alongside them to help them stick with their plan.

It takes emotional intelligence – and listening – to work out which leadership role is right for the moment. This is easier if we come from an attitude of service.

…and Others in the Profession

We don’t have to be the CEO of a large firm to influence others in the profession. Our basic interactions help us lead.

Rather than looking down on those with less qualifications than you, recognise that we all serve clients. Nurture your peers and support them in their service as they take their path to growth. Perhaps you might offer to help them study or role play meetings – this works well regardless of size of firm and doesn’t necessarily need to be formal.

Rather than seeking the deference of others due to the success we’ve had, use this position to draw people forward. Clear the path for their success and encourage them. Why not share your experiences with those who might be considering joining the profession from university or schools? Our professional bodies have resources and support that you could use.

Rather than dragging others in the profession forward, come alongside them. Show them what is possible through partnership. Mentor them, guide them, and help them to grow. A contact at another financial planning firm is forming an informal best practice group for Heads of Technical. Why not gather together some of your peers for a regular conference call?

Give it a try. From my experience it is incredibly rewarding and is what our profession needs. How are you serving?

Dan Atkinson headshot
Courtesy of Dan Atkinson

Dan’s degree Music Technology degree helps him approach Financial Planning problems creatively. He is both a Chartered Financial Planner and a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society (PFS). Dan is an Accredited Paraplanner™ with CISI and is working towards the Certified Financial Planner™ certification. Having won several awards in his field, Dan continues to work with CISI and other organisations to support others involved in this area of Financial Planning by writing articles, and hosting conferences and events.

Outside of the office Dan is married to Hannah and has a young daughter who keeps him on his toes. He is also involved in his local Church in Hatfield.

The views expressed in this article are that of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Voyant.