In Blanchard’s work with culture clients, a key part of a successful culture initiative is the transition of the senior leader from a self-serving leader to a servant leader. Self-serving leadership is, unfortunately, a very strongly modeled approach to influencing others in Western society. Servant leadership is gaining strength – and high-performance, values-aligned cultures require it from their senior leaders.
In my work as a process coach for senior leaders, a clear pattern has emerged. In every single case, senior leaders that embrace servant leadership generate tremendous traction on their desired culture. Those that do not embrace servant leadership enjoy much less benefit to the culture process.
In Blanchard’s Servant Leadership Immersion program for senior leaders, we focus on the practice of servant leadership. We must build the right habits, and there is nothing like discipline to create effective habits.
Discipline one requires that you are out of human contact, alone and present, for intentional, lengthy periods of time. Silence of mind and spirit is an essential component of solitude. Therefore, during time of solitude, no talking, no writing, no doing.
This is a difficult discipline to embrace in our fast-paced society. Yet quieting the mind and spirit, reflecting in the moment, recharges, clarifies, and enables us.
Discipline two is about getting enough rest, enough sleep, to be able to be present to the opportunities for servant leadership that surround us. Sleep deprivation is a huge negative factor today that inhibits good relationships, strong performance, and healthy lifestyles.
Discipline three is about creating structure to enable clear, proactive communication between you and your direct reports. To serve them well, you must provide the behavior they need, whether it is guidance, “hands-off”-ness, support, encouragement, etc.
This discipline can work wonders in your personal relationships, too – increasing your servant leadership effectiveness with spouse, children, inspiring friends, etc.
Discipline four is about creating space for and demonstration of genuine acceptance and appreciation for those you work with (and live with and engage with) on a daily basis. Accept who you are, what you’re trying to be (vision & values), and what you do well and not so well. You are OK exactly how you are.Be loving of those around you – catch them doing things right. Be aware of the messaging you provide to others.
Most workplace messaging is overwhelmingly negative: “You did that wrong.” “That effort just isn’t good enough.” You will create a very positive and powerful dynamic by delivering more accepting and appreciative messages of people’s efforts.Yes, they must perform. And, most staff are doing quite a lot RIGHT. They just never hear about those things – they hear only about those things they’re doing WRONG.
Discipline five is a very specific and very important “alignment” structure for your efforts to demonstrate authentic servant leadership. Leadership is a lonely role; we can easily slip into convenient rationalizations and blind spots regarding how well we “walk our talk.”
A small, intimate accountability group – made up of people who are not directly impacted by our leadership actions – can serve as powerful, trusted “truth tellers” to help us understand the true impact of our behaviors and decisions.
These disciplines can help you shift from self-serving leadership behaviors to servant leadership behaviors. The core role of leaders is TO SERVE. Our organizations need foundations of mutual trust and respect. Creating servant leadership habits can change you and your organization for the better.