For last weeks leadership legacies session we reflected on one more prophetic leadership quality; servant leadership. The Prophet SAW once said in an authentic hadith, “the leader of a people is their servant”. We know that with roles of leadership comes power but more importantly, it comes with responsibility. Responsibility for our team, the work we do and the wider community that we serve. Unlike many CEOs and company directors we see today, wealth-obsessed and narcissistic where the team strives to serve them, being a servant leader is placing yourself below those you lead and serve in order to empower and uplift them.
A word that came to mind when putting the session together was ihsan. Ihsan is a word that is oversimplified and often translated to mean excellence and striving for excellence but in actual fact, ihsan has a vast array of meanings and is a much larger concept that is thought to be the innermost dimension of our faith. Other translations are ‘to do beautiful things’, ‘generosity’ and to always go beyond what is expected, all correct translations but linguistically speaking ihsan can be translated to mean ‘ to add value to others’ and is at the heart of our faith. We know that when we do ihsan with others, Allah will do ihsan with us.
Abu Huraira reported:
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said,
“Whoever relieves the hardship of a believer in this world, Allah will relieve his hardship on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever helps ease one in difficulty, Allah will make it easy for him in this world and in the Hereafter. Whoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah helps the servant as long as he helps his brother…..”
In every aspect of the Prophet’s SAW life we see how the Prophet was the best servant leader. From the battle of the trench where the Prophet SAW worked tirelessly along his brothers to build the trenches because he was above no task. Where the sahaba had strapped stones to their stomach out of hunger and the Prophet SAW strapped 2 out of extreme starvation. Where he let his brothers fill up on food first and when they were done, instead of feeding himself, insisted the locals were fed first. If his people were suffering, the Prophet SAW would always be the one suffering the most.
The Prophet SAW had so much for his ummah, not just his family and friends or the Muslims at the time and those who came before, but the Muslims till the end of time. He would always cry with his hands raised, making dua for his ummah, ‘Ya ummati, ya ummati, ya ummati’ he would cry out (oh my people). Every prophet was guaranteed one dua that Allah would accept and the Prophet SAW, despite all the suffering him and the sahaba struggled through during their lives, saved his for the day of judgment where he will make dua for his ummah. The love the Prophet SAW had for others was incomprehensible and dua was at the heart of it. So a habit we can create is to constantly make dua for others, as when we keep them in our duas, when we sincerely want the best for others, we will begin to strive to help others in all other aspects of our life.
We also discussed how being a servant leader is flipping our way of thinking from:
How do we use our team to achieve a goal or complete a project,
How do we use this project / this goal to uplift our team and the community we serve.
If we embed serving and uplifting others into our vision and every task we do, that is how we become successful servant leaders.