Are you a sucker for articles or books enticing you with the latest lists of behaviors that successful leaders supposedly share? You've probably picked up a few themes by now, including:

We've heard these common leadership clichés for years. But let me admit something. What the gurus and thought-leaders have been teaching, writing, and speaking about is really based on common sense. But ... it's not common practice. 

To make the jump from the pages of leadership theory to actual daily practices that will transform teams and organizations takes an intense bias for action.

That's why I admire the work of Dr. John Stahl-Wert. He is a serial entrepreneur, best-selling co-author of The Serving Leader, and an internationally known speaker whose specialty is making  "serving leadership" practical for results-oriented leaders worldwide. 

The 5 Actions of a Serving Leader

Through many years of observing great leaders, Stahl-Wert has documented five actionable practices found in thriving businesses and organizations around the world, which he teaches as core leadership development curriculum at Newton Institute. When leaders commit to flipping common sense to common practice, these five actions will unequivocally equip entire teams and companies for success. They are:

1. Run to Great Purpose

Stahl-Wert found that serving leaders define a compelling vision and connect every person to the vision. This powerful foundation of high performance teams is what inspires and motivates them to bring their very best and run to great purpose throughout the employee lifecycle.

2. Raise the Bar

Serving leaders raise the bar by ensuring that core values are embedded and demonstrated at every level of the organization. They will identify and define those values that describe how a team will operate, and teach others how to align and hold their own teams accountable to them.

3. Blaze the Trail

Serving leaders blaze the trail by clarifying what it is that their teams do that customers value most, and then remove any barriers that keep their teams from delivering what their customers value most.

4. Build on Strength

Stahl-Wert writes, "One of the most important areas of knowledge about a person is knowledge about that person's strengths." He adds, "When people love what they are doing, they naturally give it their full energy and passion." In essence, the serving leader builds on strength by finding ways to match the work with the people who love doing it, and who do it very well.

5. Upend the Pyramid

By flipping the traditional top-down pyramid upside down, serving leaders are uniquely positioned to empower others from the bottom-up, through effective delegation so their teams reach full potential. In upending the pyramid, unhealthy dependency on individual leaders is removed -- allowing for the organization to foster a leader-leader culture, rather than a leader-follower culture. 

Bringing It Home

The five actions as described above are just that -- actions, not theories or concepts inducing us to acquire more information and knowledge. 

"Serving leaders," Stahl-Wert says, "are in the trenches with their teams, businesses, and neighborhoods doing what lots of people write about." 

In following this practical guideline and applying these actions to any organization, leaders will quickly close the gap between knowing and doing to achieve amazing results.

Published on: May 1, 2018
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