Hailed by its publisher as "the most comprehensive and wide-ranging guide on the subject of servant leadership ever produced," the newly-released Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results is quickly becoming a go-to resource for experts and novices alike.
Legendary author and lifelong servant leader Ken Blanchard, and his longtime editor Renee Broadwell, collaborated to fuse together essays by forty-four renowned servant leadership experts and practitioners who offer advice and tools for implementing the servant leadership model.
While this smorgasbord packs a punch, it is severely lacking in scientific evidence and, in some chapters, the publisher allowed many of the authors to conveniently plug their own books or frameworks and fit them under the servant leadership umbrella. Having said that (as a servant leadership practitioner myself), the wisdom displayed in this collection is exhaustive and recommended for your own exploration.
Below, I am capturing nine compelling excerpts from some of the more popular thought-leaders of our time, as presented in this important book.
1. Marshall Goldsmith, the world's leading executive coach and author of the bestseller,Triggers.
On the one question every servant leader should ask:
The next time you run into a conflict, ask yourself this question: 'Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?'
Like closing our office door so people hesitate before they knock, asking ourselves [this question] gives us a thin barrier of breathing room -- time enough to inhale, exhale, and reflect on whether the outcome we seek is a true positive that is intended for the benefit of others, or a false positive that is intended to polish our own image. For servant leaders who want to make serving others their primary mission, that's a vital distinction.
2. Raj Sisodia, cofounder of Conscious Capitalism.
On being a selfless leader:
A leader who operates with a primary emphasis on self-interest naturally views other people as a means to that end. You cannot be a true leader if you operate at that level of consciousness.
Selfless does not mean eradicating the ego; that is nearly impossible. It is about harnessing the ego in healthy ways. As the Dalai Lama has said, 'We cannot and need not eradicate our ego; rather, we must make sure it is a serving ego and not a deserving ego.'
3. Stephen M.R. Covey, bestselling author of The Speed of Trust.
On building trust:
The positional leader seeks to control. The servant leader seeks to unleash talent and creativity by extending trust to others. Why? Because the servant leader fundamentally believes deeply in others -- and in their potential.
4. Michael Bush, CEO of consulting firm Great Place to Work.
On acknowledging the human potential of all workers:
[Servant leaders] also reject what's been common management practice for decades: claiming people are your greatest asset but really valuing only about 10 percent or so of the souls in the upper echelons of the company. That elitist approach to business leaves human potential on the table, ultimately letting down individuals who work there as well as the business itself.
5. Simon Sinek, author of three bestselling books, including Start with Why.
On creating a culture of vulnerability:
Creating a space in which people can feel vulnerable means a person can walk into their boss's office to admit a mistake without fear of losing their job. It means someone can raise their hand and ask for help, admit they have been given a responsibility they don't feel prepared or knowledgeable enough to complete, or admit they are scared without any fear of humiliation or retribution. We trust that the servant leader will come running to our aid. This is what happens inside great organizations. In contrast, in a work environment that lacks good servant leaders, people will go out of their way to follow the rules at all costs, cover up mistakes, and deny accountability. Remember United Airlines?
6. Brené Brown, famous researcher and author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers, including Daring Greatly.
On recognizing and combating shame:
Servant leadership and shame culture cannot coexist for a simple reason: the foundation of servant leadership is courage and shame breeds fear. Shame crushes our tolerance for vulnerability, thereby killing engagement, innovation, creativity, productivity, and trust.
7. Patrick Lencioni, author of ten business books, including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Advantage.
On the power of humility in teams:
The first and most important virtue of an ideal team player is humility. A humble person is someone who is more concerned with the success of the team than with getting credit for their own contribution. People who lack humility in a significant way -- the ones who demand a disproportionate amount of attention -- are dangerous for a team. Having said that, humble team players are not afraid to honestly acknowledge the skills and talents that they bring to the team, though never in a proud or boastful way.
8. Henry Cloud, psychologist, leadership coach, and bestselling author of more than twenty books.
On building an environment of safety and accountability:
A servant leader is someone who knows it matters where their people are at any moment, in any season. Servant leaders do not allow their teams to drift into disconnectedness, or be crushed under negative criticism, or hide behind flattery and happy talk. They seek to create real, supportive, yet highly accountable and challenging environments where people feel that their hearts, minds, and souls are engaged every day.
9. James Kouzes and Barry Posner, coauthors of the bestselling book, The Leadership Challenge
On soul searching and finding one's voice as a servant leader:
If you don't find your voice, you may find yourself with a vocabulary that belongs to someone else, mouthing words that were written by a speechwriter who is nothing like you at all. If you doubt the importance of choosing your own vocabulary, consider these phrases from the speech by a banking manager we observed during the course of our research:
- "We'll act like SWAT teams"
- "We're going to beat their brains out."
- "We won't tolerate the building of fiefdoms."
- "We communicate with passion -- and passion persuades."
- "What we need is optimism, humanism, enthusiasm, intuition, curiosity, love, humor, magic, fun, and that secret ingredient -- euphoria."
- "I believe that service -- whether it is serving the community or your family or the people you love, or whatever -- is fundamental to what life is about."
What do these words communicate about the guiding beliefs and assumptions of the individuals speaking? Would any of these words be in your lexicon? Would you want them used in your organization?