Wanted: Leaders who are also servants

It’s always an interesting task to answer the office telephone because you never know who’s going to be on the other end or where the conversation might lead.

Sure. Far too many times it’s a recording reminding me to extend my car warranty. But other times, there are real people on the line pitching story ideas — not only about their businesses but also other businesses with which they’re familiar. I remain open to and grateful for these suggestions. Many of what I consider the best stories to appear in the Business Times originated with a phone call or email.

One recent suggestion came from Richard Quin, a Navy veteran in his 80s who wanted to discuss what he considered an important idea. His idea? That members of Congress donate part of their wages to help citizens in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and related economic downturn.

The timing is right, he said, not only because of the troubles so many people face, but also the impending election. Moreover, Donald Trump could have some leverage in challenging members of Congress to donate part of their salaries because the president contributes his.

The notion is an interesting one if you do the math. Most representatives and senators make $174,000 a year. Counting 435 representatives and another 100 senators, that’s 535 total members of Congress. Multiply $174,00 by 535 and the product exceeds $93 million.

Of course, that’s a proverbial drop in the bucket compared to federal stimulus packages that top $1 trillion. But it’s also what could be considered a symbolic start.

Looking at the bigger picture, I’m not so much interested in members of Congress donating a part of their salaries to help others. Although that would be a nice gesture. Moreover, I suspect there’s probably at least some level of philanthropy among our representatives and senators.

What interests me more is the idea of servant leadership. Members of Congress don’t have to necessarily donate part of their salaries. But it would be helpful if they would demonstrate servant leadership in putting the needs of constituents first and empowering them to lead better lives.

It’s a concept that’s worked well for businesses in developing top-performing teams motivated to serve customers as well as achieve company objectives. Employees care about what they do for the company because there’s a sense their leaders care about them.

Maybe I’m hopelessly naive. But I remain hopeful nonetheless people would be less divided and cynical about government in this country is there was a sense their leaders cared about them and not just their votes.

There’s still far more that unites us than divides us. But we desperately need servant leaders in elected offices at all levels who are willing to put aside the pursuit of power — and especially party politics — to serve.

Phil Castle is editor of the Business Times. Reach him at phil@thebusinesstimes.com or 424-5133.