Non-Servant Non-Leadership

by Andy Wood on May 14, 2012

in Exploring the Possibilities, Hoarders, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, LV Stories

Friday I was on my way to Virginia to make a presentation at a Servant Leadership conference.  So I guess it was safe to say I had leading-by-serving on the brain…

I walk up to the ticket counter of the Dallas-based airline that will remain nameless (though I will point out that they don’t advertise that bags fly free).

Next to me is a fellow traveler who was trying to check her two bags.  Here is the gist of the conversation…

Agent:  That’ll be $60.00

Customer:  Oh… Is there an ATM machine close by?

Agent:  Hmmm.  There used to be one, but I think they moved it to the other side of security.

Customer:  Well I guess I’ll need to go through security and get some cash.

Agent:  You have to have a boarding pass.

Customer:  I have a boarding pass.

Agent:  Yes, but you can’t take your bags through security.

Customer:  But how can I get the cash if I can’t get through security?

Agent:  You’ll need some other method of payment.

Customer:  All I can do is pay cash.

Agent:  Oh, we take cash.

Customer:  But how can I get to the ATM machine?

Agent:  You have to have a boarding pass.

Customer:  I HAVE a boarding pass.

Agent:  But you can’t go through security with your bags.

Customer:  So can I leave them here for a minute?

Agent:  No you can’t leave them.  I have no idea what you have in there.  (Side note: the TSA x-ray people were 10 feet away.)

Customer:  So what you’re saying is that I can’t make my fight?

Agent:  It’s not my job to provide you an ATM machine.

That’s the point where my business was done and I walked off, leaving a bewildered traveler and an oh-so-correct ticket agent who I feel quite sure never once felt the angst created by a system that deceived people as to the real cost of that ticket – all for the sake of making money (airlines made a combined $1.6 billion in added fees last year). Not once did he acknowledge his company’s role in creating the problem or himself or his company as part of the solution.

He was no leader.  Heck, he wasn’t even much of a servant.  But he could go home knowing he was correct.

I’ve had a couple of days to replay that scenario in my head.  I know the agent had a job to do, though I’m quite sure insulting a customer about her bag contents and watching her twist in the wind of an impossible-looking solution wasn’t in his description.  I just wonder if…

Maybe There Was a Servant Solution

Maybe he could have gently pressed in to explain to the obviously-inexperienced flyer that they could, indeed, take her ATM card for payment.  She didn’t make it clear why getting cash was so important.

Maybe he could have paid it himself out of his own pocket – risking that she would do right by him and go get the cash and bring it back.  Certainly above and way beyond the call of his duty, but why not?

Short of being allowed to make such a grand gesture, maybe he could have at least acted apologetic or sorry for the dilemma she faced.

What would you do that I haven’t thought of?

Maybe There Was a Leadership Solution

Maybe his still-in-bankruptcy-and-I-think-I-know-why airline could have empowered him to waive the fees in certain circumstances.

Maybe they would have negotiated a plan with the TSA for cases like this – to x-ray and watch the bags for a limited time.

Maybe they could have negotiated with the same or a different bank for an ATM machine, or set up their own system for such things at the counter.

Maybe they could have established a system in the first place that doesn’t ask travelers to pay three times for a round trip ticket when they’re checking bags.  Here’s a radical idea – why not build the cost of two bags into the price of the ticket and offer refunds or vouchers at the gate for every bag they DON’T check? Then not only can travelers compare apples to apples for shopping for flights, but they can skip down the jet bridge with $30-60 in their pocket and good feelings about flying the unfriendly skies.

Would else could the airline or local leadership have done? What would you do that I haven’t thought of?

Maybe There Was a Servant Leadership Solution

As I passed through security, still indignant about what I had just witnessed, I suddenly was convicted.

I. Just.  Blew.  It.

I was on my self-righteous mental high-horse about how a ticket agent and his did-I-mention-they-are-bankrupt employer were insensitive and unprepared to deal with such a scenario.  And I was so distracted with my own huffing and puffing, I was blind to the fact that I could have been her solution.  I had three different ways I could have helped her while I stood there and did nothing.  I didn’t have a right to criticize somebody for not thinking about doing was I also didn’t think to do.

Just because it wasn’t my job didn’t mean it wasn’t my opportunity.

Just because it’s an abusive and deceptive practice (is my attitude leaking?) doesn’t mean I am powerless to be a small light in the darkness.

Just because I wasn’t a corporate manager didn’t mean I couldn’t be a servant leader.

And I failed.

Sigh… what to now?  Do I really want to circle back around and have to go through security again?  Just as I decided that I’d do it, I saw my fellow traveler coming through security herself.  Somehow she made it.

In spite of them.

In spite of their money-leeching policies.

In spite of my self-righteous neglect.

Memo to my foggy brain:  The next time you hear someone use the words “it’s not my job” maybe you should assume it’s yours.

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world. It was time for him to go to the Father. Jesus loved his disciples who were in the world. So he now showed them how much he really loved them…So he got up from the meal and took off his outer clothes. He wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a large bowl. Then he began to wash his disciples’ feet. He dried them with the towel that was wrapped around him (John 13:1-5 NIRV).

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

JOYCE GERALD July 28, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Why is this construct so foreign in today’s church milieu?

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