Any Star Trek fan knows this catchphrase was one Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise used frequently to let his chief engineer Scotty know when he was ready to be transported back to the ship. If you recall, the transporter transformed the human body into matter to transport it through space and transform it back into the human body once on the ship.
I worked for a leader early in my career who loved this phrase. He used it to let his staff know that it was time to shift into an implementation mode, or to move on to a new subject. Jim Romine was president of a technology company in California, and when he used this phrase he always smiled. I was in my late 20s when I went to work for him. At the time, I was a young leader ready to take on the world. I had been in a leadership position for about five years when I accepted the offer to work for Jim.
After being hired, I was ready to prove to Jim he made the right decision. I wanted to advance up the corporate ladder and felt I knew better than others what it took to be successful as a business leader. After about three years, Jim decided to leave the company. I enjoyed working for Jim, but at the time I felt I could have learned more from a different type of leader, one more focused on my success rather than the success of the organization.
Jim recently passed away and my wife, Lori, and I attended his celebration of life service. I had not seen Jim for about 20 years. As I listened to the words spoken about Jim’s life, I started to realize what a great servant leader he was.
One person’s description stuck with me that day. He said Jim was always willing to be involved in other people’s lives. As I thought about that statement, I couldn’t remember a time when I let Jim into my life. Others spoke about Jim in similar ways.
Since the service, I have spent time thinking about my thinking, and I’ve realized I missed a great opportunity to learn from Jim about servant leadership. Jim was not a Captain Kirk; Jim was Scotty, the chief engineer who quietly served others. A humble leader, dedicated to the success of the organization but more importantly to helping others through the twists and turns that life throws at them.
Jim was willing to help transform me into a different type of leader, to show me how to care about other people. But I wasn’t ready for the transformation required to get on the servant leader starship. Jim offered it to me on many occasions, but I didn’t realize his desire to impact the lives of others until now. My heart wasn’t ready to let a servant leader impact my leadership beliefs. I wasn’t willing to let my heart be influenced by Jim. That was a huge mistake.
If I had been willing to learn from Jim and let him “beam me up,” I believe I would have become a servant leader much earlier in my career.
Do you have a Scotty in your life who is willing to help you transform and be transported into a different type of leadership? Look around you and see if there is a Servant Leader Ship Enterprise waiting for you to get on board. Don’t let the ship pass you by like I did.
Thank you, Jim, for investing in the lives of others, including mine. Because I knew Jim, my life has been changed for good.
On the Servant Leader Ship Enterprise with you,
Oct. 4, 2017
Art Barter is CEO of the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI), an organization that helps people and organizations put servant leadership into practice, through hands-on training, coaching, events, publications and other programs.
He is also CEO and cultural architect of Datron World Communications Inc., an organization he transformed from a $10 million company to a $200 million company in just six years by putting into practice the behaviors of servant leadership. His latest book is The Servant Leadership Journal: An 18 Week Journey To Transform You and Your Organization.