Servant Leadership in Action

Servant Leadership

What Is Servant Leadership?

By Ken Blanchard

What do you think of when you hear the term servant leadership? Do you picture a workplace culture where managers and direct reports work side by side, set goals, collaborate on projects, solve problems and celebrate victories together? Or do you picture a chaotic scene from a movie where the inmates are running the prison?

If you don’t understand servant leadership, it may be because you think people can’t lead and serve at the same time. But they can, if they recognize that there are two kinds of leadership involved in servant leadership: strategic and operational.

Strategic leadership has to do with vision and direction. It’s the leadership aspect of servant leadership. Leadership is about going somewhere. If you and your people don’t know where you are going, your leadership doesn’t matter. A compelling vision ensures everyone is going in the same direction. Once the organization has a compelling vision, they can set goals and define strategic initiatives that help people know what to focus on right now. The traditional hierarchical pyramid is effective for this part of servant leadership because, while the leader should involve experienced people in helping to shape direction, the ultimate responsibility remains with the leader and cannot be delegated to others.

 

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” –Theodore Hesburgh

 

As soon as people are clear on where they are going, the hierarchical pyramid is philosophically turned upside-down. Now the leader’s role shifts to a service mindset for operational leadership, which has to do with implementation. The question now is: How do we live according to the vision and accomplish the establish goals? Implementation is the servant aspect of servant leadership. It includes policies, systems, and leader behaviors that flow from senior management to frontline employees—and make it possible for people in the organization to live according to the vision and values and accomplish short-term goals and initiatives.

 

Create a Servant Leadership Culture

How Leaders Create A Compelling Vision to Engage & Inspire

company vision

Lead With Vision

Leaders create a vision and engage a community to achieve it.

What does it mean to lead with vision?

It’s a question that authors Bonnie Hagemann, Simon Vetter, and John Maketa researched extensively, surveying over 400 companies in search of the answer.

I recently spoke with the authors about their new book, LEADING WITH VISION: The Leader’s Blueprint for Creating a Compelling Vision and Engaging the Workforce.

 

Would you share the story about “going up the stairs two steps at a time” and how it impacted your view of leadership and culture?

Yes, of course.  Back in 2006 I had a meeting with Jim Bolt, the founder of Executive Development Associates (EDA), to discuss how I would run the company. Jim had been developing senior leaders since the early 1980s and was a renowned expert in the field. I knew I had much to learn from Jim and hoped we could work together. I didn’t know at the time that the very first piece of advice he would give me would shape and inform every leadership decision I have made since. Before I left that meeting, Jim handed me a book from his shelf called Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia, a sports clothing company.

The book is the story of Patagonia with an emphasis, almost a plea, for sustainability.  Jim wanted me to start thinking about how we could help with this effort, I read the book but it was something else within that captured my attention. The CEO of Patagonia wanted to build an organization where employees were compelled to come to work. Yvon Chouinard wanted a company where employees were a part of their environmental mission.  He wanted employees to be wholly engaged and committed.  He said, “Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to come to work on the balls of our feet and go up the stairs two steps at a time” (Chouinard 2005, 45).

That statement struck me as extremely important.  Imagine the creativity and courage and productivity that would come from a workforce like that.  The power of it is immeasurable.  That is what visionary leadership can do.  It can unleash the power of the workforce.

 

Visionary leaders create a clear picture of a positive future state.

 

The 4 C’s of a Visionary Leader

What’s your definition of a visionary leader?

A visionary leader is a person who steps out and creates a clear picture of a positive future state.  It takes a lot of courage because creating a vision for the future is basically imagining what could be and what should be.  That feels very risky for leaders.  It is stepping out of the norm.  There are certain things they will need to do.  In the book we explain further by putting it into 4 Cs.  They must:

  1. Embody courage,
  2. Forge clarity,
  3. Build connectedness, and
  4. Shape the culture.

 

What advice do you have for a leader struggling with creating a compelling vision? 

5 Ways to Increase Trust in the Workplace

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask James M. Kerr a few questions about culture, trust and engagement.  Jim is a Partner at BlumShapiro Consulting. He is a business strategist and organizational behaviorist.  His latest book is The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change.

Increasing Trust

 

You cite studies showing that trust in business is at an all time low.  What do you do to reverse that and increase trust?

It’s really up to the senior management team to set the tone and do what is necessary to build a high trust work environment.  Some of the ideas that I discuss in The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change to reverse the trend include:

 

1.  Place Focus on the Outside

The competition lives outside the four walls of the organization.  In-fighting just wastes time and energy and can contribute to distrust.  Placing focus on the competition allows a firm to put that energy to good use and diminishes the time that staff dedicates to internal politics and positioning.

 

“Focus on the competition to diminish the time dedicated to internal politics.” -James Kerr

 

2.  Make It a “No Spin” Zone

Management must set an expectation that all of the business dealings of an enterprise are done with the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in mind.  Eliminating “spin” improves transparency and enhances trust.

 

“Eliminating spin improves transparency and trust.” -James Kerr

 

3.  Don’t Play Games

If you play games and pit one group against another, you’re encouraging others to follow suit.  Play the work setting straight-up, with no innuendo – just honesty.  Trust will follow.

 

“Play the work with no innuendo – just honesty. Trust will follow.” -James Kerr

 

4.  Do Your Job

It’s our job to ensure that everyone knows what success is and what their role is in achieving it.  Once that is established, attention must shift to making sure everyone “does their job.”  This focus contributes to establish a high trust work environment.

 

“Ensure everyone knows what success is and what their role is in achieving it.” -James Kerr

 

5.  Do Your Best

Expect the best and people will rise to the occasion.  As they do, confidence will rise accordingly.  The need to play games and be deceitful will lessen and trust will fill the void left behind.

 

“Expect the best and people will rise to the occasion.” -James Kerr

 

Creating a Winning Culture