Southwest Airlines has an interesting way of recruiting people. In addition to the usual interview process, they also have a session where certain individuals are called on to lead an information session. This is when the real observation takes place, but the catch is: the recruiters are not watching how well those individuals lead those sessions. They take careful note of those who are listening. They watch how well they take in information, but most importantly, they watch how those listeners help those who are presenting, by being enthusiastic and attentive.  They ask questions that are helpful and not self-serving, so that they would stand out, and bring attention to themselves. Instead, they foster an environment, so that others listening would benefit from the session.

I heard that story in a training session workshop years ago when working in the corporate world. Oddly enough, I see the same kind of phenomenon prevailing in other parts of life. The best leaders I’ve come across were those who were smart in their service to others. As followers they enthusiastically and effectively serve their leaders, so that in turn their leaders have an easier time leading. Whether it’s church or any organization, this principle has been tried and true.

I can take this one step further: In the classroom, I find it that those with the best potential to be good teachers are not necessarily those who have all the answers. Those who desire to stand out for their “smarts” live in a mere egocentric vacuum. Intelligence is good–I don’t doubt that. But it can be better when it helps others, making the environment pleasant both for the teachers and the students.

What an impression that workshop had on me. Now doing something about it–that always seems to be the hard part.