I recently joined the board of a new startup nonprofit called Leadership Academy located in Chambersburg, PA. So far, a group of about nine men who have had a lifetime passion for leadership and I have all arrived at the same conclusion that Servant Leadership — or what some refer to as Level 5 Leadership — is the method of leadership that unleashes the final frontier, our minds. It addresses the challenges that last year are estimated to have cost North American businesses more than $9 billion due to a lack of employee engagement. Servant leadership drives employee engagement, unleashes talent, and holds ourselves and others accountable to achieve results when leaders focus on others and don’t waver on where they are going, all while conducting business in the spirit of humility.
Wow! That’s quite a mouthful! Better consider reading that a few times.
Here is what we agreed about servant leadership:
- It is the answer to maximizing human potential.
- It is about moving from “me” to “we” and, ultimately, to “”
- It is about becoming “other”
- Helpfulness is the lifeblood of a servant leader.
- Respect, understanding, genuine interest in others, and helpfulness are the core attitudes of a servant leader
- Servant leadership is a process not an event; it is a constant state of who we are choosing to become.
- Servant leaders are not perfect, nor is perfection is ever the goal.
The challenge is not simply understanding the points listed above. Rather, it is acting on those points and making them part of our DNA and being intentional in how we choose to lead. Last week, I was sitting in the office of an executive who is really trying to be a servant leader in an environment where servant leadership is misunderstood and not valued. His resolve is inspirational, and his commitment to the principles is unwavering. His division is the only one in the company that will meet projections in both top line and profit, yet he remains under pressure to make decisions as a command and control leader might in creating fear and uncertainty among his leadership team. Interestingly, he is being promoted again for the fourth time since I started coaching him and will be responsible for almost 60 per cent of his company’s revenues.
Hmmm…what I am learning is that the servant leader can survive and thrive in any culture, even in cultures that reward counter styles. I never said this would be easy, but one’s resolve is baked in to one’s DNA. It is sensed by others. It is not a philosophy one can simply talk about. Instead, it is about doing the right thing, then doing the thing right through people.
I personally have been a student of servant leadership for almost 30 years, but only in the last six years did I really begin to change my leadership beliefs and paradigms to see progress in my thinking, which has impacted results in both my personal and professional life. This transformation is what has allowed me to be a more effective executive coach. Trust me, I am still work in progress!
Human relations principle of the week: Become genuinely interested in others. – Dale Carnegie
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