servant leadership

Skip the Rockstars (and Gurus, Ninjas, Titans, and other Monikers)


Lately I've noticed an obsession with people either considering themselves to be 'rockstars' or saying that hiring 'rockstars' is the only way to build a team.

A lot of companies post help-wanted ads seeking "rockstars" or "ninjas." Lame. Unless your workplace is filled with groupies and throwing stars, these words have nothing to do with your business. [Rework]

This obsession normally leads to one of two things: 1) A person thinking he or she is at a much higher level than they really are, or 2) The lack of a "rockstar" becoming an excuse to sit around and do nothing.

Islamic organizations are normally run on the backs of regular volunteers like you and I. One way or another, through hard work and determination, masjids have been built. Community centers and Islamic schools have gotten up and running by nothing more than dedicated people putting their blood, sweat, and tears into their projects.

What's needed more than 'rockstars' is an environment where that type of hard work can happen. Check out what the founders of 37signals have to say:

Instead of thinking about how you can land a roomful of rockstars, think about the room instead. ... The environment has a lot more to do with great work than most people realize.

That's not to say we're all created equal and you'll unlock star power in anyone with a rockstar environment. But there's a ton of untapped potential trapped under lame policies, poor direction... Cut the crap and you'll find most people are waiting to do great work ...

Rockstar environments develop out of trust, autonomy, and responsibility. They're a result of giving people the privacy, workspace, and tools they deserve. Great environments show respect for the people who do the work and how they do it. [Rework]

Work on what's within your means. No matter what the situation, you can work on getting a cohesive mix of people, and creating a more welcoming environment. No excuses. I've seen plenty of people with 'rockstar' status have the volunteers around them leave by the dozen because of a toxic environment. These people may not have been 'rockstars', but they were hard-working and dedicated. Those are the people you need doing the behind the scenes work for an Islamic organization to run. Focusing on the rockstar is basically focusing on the celebrity (and thus, yourself) as opposed to being a true leader who lets others thrive around him or her. While some may say this is nitpicking at a terminology, it's more the mentality behind it.

True leadership is not from you being awesome, its about you serving others.

And in Islamic organizations, never forget - true leadership comes from you being an 'abd (servant). The more you lead by serving others, by putting yourself aside to make someone else's life better, the more you and your organization will progress. This is not just your community, but also the other people on your team or in your organization. Don't make it about you, or your own status, make it about caring for and serving others.

If you can do that, and make an environment where others do that, you'll be amazed at what you can produce.