Can the key to good leadership and business success be boiled down to one, single element? As a scholar, I usually argue that leadership is complex and that many factors contribute to successful leadership. In fact, in an edited book that sought the “best practices” in leadership, our leadership experts had difficulty summarizing best practices in just a few bullet points.
But something happened to me the other day that made me think that perhaps there is one main key to business and leadership success.
I had lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant, and, as is custom, it ended with a fortune cookie. Usually, the fortunes are mundane bits of fluff, but this one was different. It read: “Business is a lot like playing tennis; if you don’t serve well, you lose.”
Never mind that ancient Chinese philosophers probably didn’t play a lot of tennis, but the idea of serving makes a lot of sense. In all industries, not just the services sector, the key to gaining customer loyalty and continued patronage revolves around quality service. But the very best leaders also serve; they serve their stakeholders, their followers, their mission, their team’s objectives.