9 Qualities of the Servant Leader

Photo by Michael W. May on flickr.

Leading With Others in Mind

At first blush, you may think a servant leader literally takes on the role of a servant. Taken to an extreme, that definition would look like this:

As you pull into work, the leader meets you at your car, opens your door, and welcomes you to the office.  Maybe the leader gets you coffee mid-morning and drops by in the afternoon to see if you need anything.  When you need assistance on a project, or maybe just someone to do the grunt work, there your leader is, waiting for you.

No, that isn’t servant leadership.

 

“Servant leaders lead with others in mind.” -Skip Prichard

 

Servant leadership is a blend and balance between leader and servant. You don’t lose leadership qualities when becoming a servant leader.

A servant leader is one who:

1. Values diverse opinions.

A servant leader values everyone’s contributions and regularly seeks out opinions.  If you must parrot back the leader’s opinion, you are not in a servant-led organization.

 

“Servant leaders regularly seek out opinions.” -Skip Prichard

 

2. Cultivates a culture of trust.

People don’t meet at the water cooler to gossip. Pocket vetoes are rejected.

 

“Servant leaders cultivate a culture of trust.” -Skip Prichard

 

3.  Develops other leaders.

 

The replication factor is so important.  It means teaching others to lead, providing opportunities for growth and demonstrating by example.  That means the leader is not always leading, but instead giving up power and deputizing others to lead.

 

“Servant leaders give up power and deputize others to lead.” -Skip Prichard

 

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4.  Helps people with life issues (not just work issues).

It’s important to offer opportunities for personal development beyond the job.  Let’s say you run a company program to lose weight, or lower personal debt, or a class on etiquette.  None of these may help an immediate corporate need, but each may be important.

 

Why Leaders Don’t Need Parrots

Parrots

 

When I first became a CEO, I noticed something strange.

In a meeting, I was suddenly funnier.  The slightest hint at humor could erupt the room into laughter.  I was also smarter.  And my arguments were more persuasive.   Heads would bob up and down as I made a point.

Obviously my new title didn’t bestow some magical gift of brilliance.  What it provided was positional power, and people were reacting to the position.

Immediately, I knew what happened.  It took me longer to figure out what to do about it.

I’d seen this much earlier in my career when people would “parrot” the CEO.  I call it the Parrot Principle.  To get along and be accepted, some find it’s just easier to parrot the CEO than to think critically, to argue, or to be independent.  Why rock the boat when you can just agree and repeat what you’re told?

The cause is usually fear.  Fear of losing a job or of not being in the inner circle.  It’s also a symptom of a culture needing change.

Parrot Principle

Because of a lack of self-confidence, a fear of job loss, or an extreme need for acceptance, it is easier to agree with the boss than to advance a different point of view.

The result is usually what I call a “pocket veto” where people nod in a meeting, then go outside and talk about what they really believe.  It’s bad for everyone.  The company is not served well.  The CEO may not even realize what’s happening.  And the parrot is building distrust throughout the organization.

It’s not just the new CEO who faces this problem.  It’s almost any new position of power.  If others are dependent on you, you can be vulnerable to the Parrot Principle.

So what can you do about it?

9 Traits of Effective Employee Feedback

Photo by mydigitalSLR on flickr.

One of the most important jobs of a manager is to provide feedback.  And it’s not just advice from the boss.  Whether you’re raising kids or leading a team project, feedback is a critical tool for success.

Effective feedback has nine elements.  They are:

1.  Continual

If you work for a boss who gives you little to no feedback all year long, then you know the dreaded process.  You fill out a performance review form.  You schedule a meeting with your boss.  You sit down and wait to see what will happen.  You have no idea what to expect.  You may be nervous, anxious or just plain curious about what she will say.

An effective boss doesn’t wait for performance review time to give feedback.  It’s a continual process.  I’ve found the most effective feedback is given during informal times—over a cup of coffee or lunch.  You have the opportunity to have a discussion about something.

2.  Supportive

What Some Birds Taught Me About Friendship

Image courtesy of Joy Prichard Studios

Unexpected Friendship

My wife does an amazing job decorating our home.  Maybe too good of a job.  She changes colors and decorations with each holiday or season.  Admittedly, I’m often clueless about the passing months and her changes remind me just where we are in the year.

 

“A friend is someone who will sacrifice for you even when you don’t know it.” -Skip Prichard

 

This past spring she changed the wreaths on our front doors.  I suppose some birds took a look and thought they were inviting enough to build a nest.  When we opened the door one day, the mother bird flew off.  We realized there was a nest in the wreath and that changed everything.

Until those eggs hatched and the new birds were safely flying on their own, we would not use the front door.  For any reason.  Deliveries?  We’d just walk the packages around the house.  Visiting us?  “You can’t enter the front door,” we shout from a window, “Come through the garage!”  The air-conditioning repairmen who came to replace a faulty unit?  Well, they had to take some extra steps.

We were careful to watch the birds’ progress, but not disturb them.  We didn’t want to scare the mother bird off.  All through the spring we took pictures and waited.  Finally, one day they were all gone.

They never even knew we were there.

They didn’t know that we were going through all these inconveniences for their benefit.

Dan Rather on Leadership

A Life in the News

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dan Rather on stage in New York.  It was a surreal moment for me.  After all, I grew up watching the network news trio of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings.  I had watched Dan Rather interview world leaders.  Tough interviews.  Now I would be interviewing him about his life, which he has chronicled in Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, a book I couldn’t put down.  And that’s a good thing because I read it several times along with everything else I could about Dan Rather before our interview.  I always prepare, but I definitely stepped it up knowing I was interviewing one of the world’s most prominent news anchors.

Years ago, I had casually met him once before in a hotel in Dallas.  He was covering a story, and I was attending a Board meeting.  I found myself in the elevator with the news legend.  We only spoke a few words and we were both off running in different directions.  I recalled his personal warmth but also could sense his intensity.

Before our on stage interview, we were to meet in the little green room backstage.  I was waiting when I heard his trademark baritone voice through the curtain.  He was very personable, humble and focused on everyone else.  At 80, he is as sharp as ever.  We started talking and I wish I had every minute on tape.  His firsthand account of modern history is riveting.  I asked him if we could sit down and turn on the camera for a few minutes before we jumped on stage.  He agreed.

Dan Rather worked for CBS for 44 years and anchored the CBS Evening News for 24 of those years.  At the same time, he appeared on 48 Hours and 60 Minutes II.  He currently anchors Dan Rather Reports on AXS TV.  Dan Rather has won numerous Emmy Awards for broadcast journalism and the Peabody Award.

In this backstage eleven-minute interview, we talked about the story that had the biggest impact on him, whether work-life balance was possible, how having rheumatic fever as a child shaped him, and finally his views on journalism today.

I started our talk with the discussion on the subject of leadership.  Having personally known so many presidents and world leaders, what would Dan Rather say were the characteristics of a leader?