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 to Find and Work With a Mentor

Become a One-Minute Mentor

I’m a big fan of mentoring relationships. A mentor may be a formal relationship with someone or it may be a virtual relationship. In fact, the reason I read so much is that I’m curious and constantly learning from others. I’d rather learn from someone else’s mistakes than make them myself. I’d rather take a shortcut if someone else has already figured out the best way forward.

One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work With a Mentor-and Why You’ll Benefit from Being One is a new book by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Ken Blanchard. Claire Diaz-Ortiz, an early employee of Twitter, was named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. Leadership guru Ken Blanchard is the author or coauthor of more than 60 books—including the iconic bestseller The One Minute Manager —with combined sales of more than 21 million copies.


Mentoring Tip: a successful meeting with a potential mentor puts the personal before the tactical.


Why a book on mentoring?

We believe that behind every successful person, you’ll find a mentor—usually several—who guided their journey. There are many famous mentor/mentee examples out there—Socrates and Plato, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey—the list goes on and on.  With the pace of change today, we believe that mentoring can ground you and guide you in a way that few other activities can. The amazing thing about mentoring is that in many ways it benefits the mentor as much as the mentee.


“Potential mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.” -Blanchard / Diaz-Ortiz


How to Start

Many people who want a mentor don’t know where to start. You point out that “Potential mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.” How do you identify potential mentors? Ones who match your needs?

There’s an old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  We’ve found in our own lives that mentors are all around you once you start looking for them.  You might find a mentor in a boss, teacher, neighbor, friend, or colleague. Or you might find one through a professional association, volunteer organization, or online mentoring organization.

That old saying works both ways—when you’re ready to become a teacher/mentor, the student/mentee appears.  We encourage people to step up and become mentors, because you won’t fully discover, appreciate, or leverage what you have until you start giving it away.

As for identifying a potential mentor/mentee, it’s important to think about compatibility. In the book, we show that there are two aspects of working with someone: essence and form. Essence is all about sharing heart-to-heart and finding common values. Form is about structure—how you might work together. For a mentoring relationship to thrive, you need to establish that heart-to-heart connection.



Success Tip: writing about issues that arise during introspection can help to clarify them.


Keep a Journal of Your Journey

Why is it important to keep a journal of your mentoring journey?

One of Ken’s most important mentors, Peter Drucker, taught him that, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” It’s important to keep a journal of your mentoring journey so you can see where you’ve been and stay on track with where you’re going. In the book, the first step in our MENTOR model stands for “Mission”—creating a vision and purpose for the mentorship. Keeping a journal as you engage with your mentor/mentee will reveal the ways you’re fulfilling—or not fulfilling—that mission. For example, if your goal in a mentoring relationship is to create a career you love, you can record in your journal each step you take toward accomplishing that mission.


Success Tip: tread lightly on the networks of others. Never use or abuse the connections made for you.


“Tactful honesty in a mentoring relationship builds trust.” How have you seen that in practice in your own lives?

Ken’s earliest mentor was his father, a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II. Ken’s dad had a brilliant way of guiding Ken without dampening his spirit. For example, when Ken was in junior high, he was elected president of his seventh-grade class. He came home all proud of winning the election. Instead of telling Ken he was the greatest thing since sliced bread—or, on the other hand, telling him not to get a big head—Ken’s dad said with tactful honesty, “Congratulations, Ken. But now that you’re president, don’t ever use your position. Great leaders are great because people respect and trust them, not because they have power.”  That One Minute Mentoring taught Ken one of the most valuable lessons he ever learned about leadership.


“Tactful honesty in a mentoring relationship builds trust.” -Blanchard / Diaz-Ortiz


What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor?

Improve Your Management Skills in One Minute

Management Minutes


Looking for meaning in your work?

Need to find new ways to adapt?

Are you managing a team and need some tips?

Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson are two of my very favorite authors. Years ago, they teamed up to write the #1 bestseller The One Minute Manager. It has sold millions and millions of copies. They have just released The New One Minute Manager. Like the first version, it is a powerful, easily read story with easily digestible lessons for managers. Recently, I spoke with Ken about the new book.


“The best minute I spend is the one I invest in people.” -Blanchard/Johnson


Making the Complex Simple

One Minute ManagerWhy do you think The New One Minute Manager became such a worldwide bestseller?

The original book was such a ridiculous success—it spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list—that I knew I couldn’t take full credit for it. I think it was the right book at the right time. Before The One Minute Manager, business books tended to be rather long and dry. My coauthor, Spencer Johnson, was a children’s book writer; I’d been a college professor but had never been a fan of overly complicated writing. Our goal was to take a complex subject—management—and present some simple solutions that worked. People all over the world responded to the way we did that.


Leadership Tip: Catch people doing something right.


From Top-Down to Side-by-Side

Why a “NEW” version?

A couple of years ago our publisher came to us wanting to release an e-book of the original edition. When Spencer and I started to read the original edition, we realized how much the world had changed since 1982, the year it was published. For example, in the old book, the One Minute Manager was still using an intercom!

Here in the 21st century, not only has technology progressed, so have a lot of things. People are different today. They want to find meaning in their work and be appreciated for their efforts. This has changed the way effective leaders interact with the people who report to them. In the 1980s, command-and-control, top-down leadership was still a way of life. Today’s leadership is more of a side-by-side, partnership relationship.


Leadership Tip: Praise people as soon as possible.


One Minute Re-Direct

One Minute Re-Directs are new. How do they work? Where did the idea originate?

Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life


Most of us are looking forward to retirement. When that day finally arrives, what’s next?

Do you know someone who has recently retired and is struggling with lack of purpose?

How do you make the rest of your life meaningful and impactful?

Bestselling author Ken Blanchard of The One Minute Manager and psychologist Dr. Morton Shaevitz don’t believe in chance meetings. When they met on a flight from San Diego to New York, the two discussed the issues of aging.  Instead of the “best years are behind us” approach they decided to write a book about making life in your later years more meaningful than ever.


“Retiring suggests shutting down. Refiring means engaging in life.” -@DrMHShaevitz

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Morton Shaevitz about the new book Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life.

Reframing Retirement

Many people think “retirement” is the happy destination. Your new bookRefire! Don’t Retire gives different advice.  What does it mean to refire?

Refiring is a process where the primary focus is not on career advancement, financial gain, or specific types of achievements, but rather, healthy living, warm and significant relationships, continued learning and cognitive growth, vitality and meaningful involvement, and the development of a personal sense of spirituality. Retiring suggests shutting down. Refiring means engaging in life.


Refire Emotionally

  1. You start with “refiring emotionally.” Why is that first?

There isn’t any particular reason this was first, but being socially isolated has been shown to contribute to emotional and physical decline. So that makes it a good jumping off point. Identifying those people who are meaningful in our lives, building stronger connections, reaching out to new people, opening up, and getting close can also sometimes help to establish a good foundational support system for your refiring process.


Fact: Being socially isolated contributes to emotional and physical decline.

Look and Feel Better Once and For All

Have you struggled to lose weight or stay fit?

Do you dream about being locked overnight in a delicatessen?

How do you sustain success?

What can you learn about goal setting when trying to stay in shape?


Finally In Shape


I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ken Blanchard, one of my favorite authors and speakers about his recent personal transformation, losing weight and getting in shape.  Ken is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world.  He is the cofounder and Chief Spiritual Officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies. He is also the author or coauthor of fifty books that have sold more than 20 million copies, including the iconic The One Minute Manager®.

Ken recently wrote about his weight loss in a new book, Fit At Last.


“People who produce good results feel good about themselves.” –Ken Blanchard


An Early Relationship With Food


fit_at_last_covWhen you were young, you describe your life as fairly centered around food.  What impact did that relationship with food have on you?

Controlling my weight has always been a battle.  My mother, like many other mothers, nurtured her family with food.  If we were happy, we ate; if we were sad, we ate; if we were worried, we ate. When you grow up that way, it becomes second nature—that’s where “comfort food” got its name.  I used to have dreams of being locked overnight inside our local Jewish delicatessen.  I can smell a piece of cheesecake a mile away!  And at times I’ve been my own worst enemy—I believed that if I worked hard during the day, I could eat anything I wanted at night.  My wife Margie used to call that a “lousy belief.”


“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” -Ken Blanchard


Everyone who has struggled with weight has experienced the ups and downs.  You’ve lost weight before.  What happened?

Many times when I would have some success at getting fit, there would be a point where I would get complacent—then I’d forget about my original commitment, get distracted, and shift to other priorities.


“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re commited to something, you accept no excuses – only results.” –Ken Blanchard


Sustainable Goal Setting


What makes a goal sustainable?

A goal is sustainable when you have a few people in your life who help you stay committed to your commitment—they hold you accountable, praise your progress, and redirect your efforts when you get off course. In my experience, most goals are hard to sustain without a support system.


“A goal is sustainable when you have people who help you stay committed.” -Ken Blanchard


What role does individual personality or behavior style have on personal fitness?