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Watering Your Institutional Memory

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to reinforce your servant leadership. Reading time: 2:36.

The Watercarrier, a sculpture by Allan Houser, on display at Herman Miller Inc’s corporate headquarters in Zeeland, Michigan.

             You’re a servant leader. You display your emotional intelligence and your sense of humility in creating a productive environment, in nurturing the creative zeal of others, in solidifying symbiotic relationships that sustain and grow the organization.

             You know all of that in the abstract.

             But how can you share a concrete image of your role as a servant leader? How can you envision yourself in action long before you assume your duties? How can you leverage an image of a servant leader to help you better prepare for your new role as servant leader?

             For me, it’s the image of a tribal water carrier–those strong and committed colleagues — who literally did the heavy lifting that sustained life.

Doing the Heavy Lifting

           They carried bone-crushing heavy water on their backs that quenched thirst, cleaned soiled hands and healed wounds in harsh conditions.

           You can sense the self-less commitment to others in the hardened surface of The Watercarrier in Allan Houser’s sculpture showcased  at one of America’s most admired companies – Herman Miller Inc., the office furniture company in Zeeland, Michigan. The inscription reads:

       “The tribal water-carrier in this corporation
is a symbol of the essential nature of all jobs,
our interdependence, the identity of ownership
and participation, the servant-hood of leadership,
the authenticity of each individual.”

       It takes years to become a Watercarrier at Herman Miller. Twenty years of service. Twenty years of performing individually and collectively. Twenty years of adhering to the values of the company in espousing the dignity and worth of each job, each, person, each heart, each soul.

20 Years of Service to Become a Water Carrier

Watercarrier is a theme in art around the world

       After 20 years of seniority, employees are invited to join other elite employees as Water carriers –no matter if they have been sweeping the floors for the last 20 years or building furniture in the plants or building equity in the stock market with savvy new product designs.

     More than 1,000 of them (23% of the workforce) have been called on to serve as water carriers.

    As water carriers, they introduce the company culture to new hires during orientation. As water carriers, they mentor new employees in how to get things done. As water carriers, they navigate the politics and warn of the sacred cows.

   And as water carriers, they water the organization’s institutional memory to preserve , protect and promote Servant Leaders for all time in all ways. Always. One pail at a time.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Become a water carrier to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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