If you want to be a leader, you have to decide to lead.
Leadership is about influencing others (see: Ken Blanchard, John Maxwell). Influencing others happens all the time, whether conscious or unconscious.
If you want to be a leader for good, you have to decide to.
Everyone desires to make positive impact on others. Everyone has the ability and opportunity to leader others for good. You are hardwired for it.
But leadership doesn't happen unintentionally or randomly.
Leadership flows from a decision to lead.
It comes from a DECISION that says, "I'm going to bring the best of me in service to help others become their best."
It comes not just a decision, but a moment-by-moment decision to continually offer yourself to others. Scanning the horizon, listening, paying attention to the moment, staying fully engaged, saying YES to giving yourself.
Have you DECIDED to lead?
What keeps you from leading?
I know you and I don't know each other very well. In fact, I never really got to know you during my interview process, and you certainly didn't really get to know me- besides what my resume says and the answers I came up with for my interview.
But, I'd really like to get to know you. And, I'd really like to give you my best. I'd like to grow here, to contribute, to make an impact, and add more value than you expect.
The thing is, I'm worried that you don't really know what I need, or what I want. So I thought I'd let you know. If you want to develop me and get the best from me, here are five things I need from you:
Teach me how. Let's be honest. You hired me for my potential, not for my skills. I don't really know what I'm doing, or how to do it well. Could you please teach me, train me, and show me how? I know it's going to take some extra time, but I think in the long run you and I will be much happier.
Correct me. I thrive off of frequent feedback- the more frequent, the better. Could you tell me when I'm off track, or even on track? Could you tell me if I shouldn't have spoken up more, or less, in the meeting? Could you let me know if you hear anything about me from our clients? Please, let me know how I'm doing.
Share "the why". I'm from a different generation than you, a generation that values meaningful work more than anything else- more than paycheck or perks. I really, really want to know why my contribution and work contributes to the value of the company. I really want to know why we do things the way we do. I want to know why the extra meeting is going to help us all work more effectively and efficiently.
Challenge me. Throw me in the deep end. Expect a lot from me- I'm used to it. My parents did. My coaches did. My professors did. And I will rise to the challenge.
Listen to me. I know that I'm new, but I've already seen a few things around here that aren't working very well. Technology that doesn't sync. Processes that are bulky and time wasting. I've observed cynicism and negativity and gossip. I would love to share things I'm seeing. I'd love to share things I learned in my classes, and as a student leader in student organizations.
Thanks for hiring me. I promise, if we work together, I won't let you down.
Your newest employee
-- Feel free to copy, paste and personalize--
In the larger conversation about Servant Leadership
as both a leadership philosophy and way of life, I'm realizing that most of us have some very strong fears that prevent us from fully taking the plunge.
So I wanted to take some time and throw out a few core, foundational beliefs
that someone needs to have in order to make the leap into servant leadership.
Here are the four things you must believe to become a Servant Leader:
1. You are not the center of the world.
As Richard Rohr
writes in his book, Adam's Return
, men who are initiated into a broader community learn this lesson through a rite of passage, whether that be an actual initiation rite, military experience, or extreme challenge. I'm sorry to tell you, but life is not about you- your happiness, joy, development, or success. There is a larger thing going on, and you and I need to jump into the flow.2. Your needs will be met
, even as you focus on meeting the needs of others. Oftentimes I resist being a servant leader because I have real, legitimate, unmet needs. If I focus on meeting the needs of others, what will happen to mine? Trust me, your needs WILL be met, as
you seek the meet the needs of others. 3. You have something to offer.
You have a unique voice, perspective, insight, and value that must be shared for others. To be a servant leader, you need to believe that you are valuable and your contribution is necessary. 4. You will be promoted.
I don't necessarily mean promoted positionally, I mean promoted in terms of street cred, trust, stature and maturity. Seeking to serve others and add value to their lives will always come around and build your own reputation as a person of value. Many times people resist servant leadership because they're afraid that their individual contribution will be overshadowed by the contribution of the people they're helping to be successful. But, as Ken Blanchard says, we must learn to seek the praise from an audience of One, the One who sees you, knows you, and is able to lift you up.
Now imagine with me the potential of not just one or two people acting and living as servant leaders, but an entire organization, or perhaps an entire generation
. Southwest Airlines
is known as a unique corporate culture bent towards servant leadership. It shows, when former CEO Colleen Barrett said, "When we have employees who have a problem -- or have employees who see a passenger having a problem -- we adopt them, and we really work hard to try to make something optimistic come out of whatever the situation is".
Did you notice that? When their employees or customers have problems, the culture responds by adopting their problems as their own, rather than firing, relegating or ignoring.
Which one(s) do you need to believe, in order to become someone known as a servant, someone who influences primarily through serving and seeking to meet the needs of others?
I'm realizing more and more that the word NETWORKING has a negative connotation to a lot of young people. It comes across sometimes as using people, manipulating, or self-service.
I think I can understand that. When I engage in networking, honestly I am thinking about who I'd like to meet and how best to meet my needs through people.
But I think that's okay.
Networking IS about expanding your network of professional relationships in order to advance your career, and as a byproduct the careers and interests of others.
But it's done best with a servant posture.
When I'm networking I am honestly thinking about how best to meet the needs of others: how I can help them and perhaps who I can introduce them to. I'm taking genuine interest in what they're interested in and seeking to understand their passions and what they need to be successful?
Well, partially because I like people. I actually am genuinely interested in what other people do, care about, and dream of. I also know that true friendships are developed through serving each other. In the past few years the people that I've connected with the quickest have almost always shown sincere interest in me. I like that. It builds trust, warmth, and connection.
- So what if networking was about building authentic friendships around generosity and concern?
- What if networking was about intentionally and strategically helping other people reach their goals?
- What if, like in any good friendship, the seeking to serve went both ways, and you and I also shared about our goals, plans, dreams and needs?
What if we redeemed networking?
Buzzwords abound in corporate culture (and some need to die
). I'm REALLY hoping that Servant Leadership avoids being relegated like others have. Why? Because it has a really long shelf-life and tremendous potential.But what is Servant Leadership?
To some, it sounds like fluff. To others, an oxymoron. To Christians, it can become a catch-all phrase for being a God-follower in the workplace.
Instead of giving a strict definition to Servant Leadership, though, I think it's translated better if you sniff it, feel it, see it, and be moved by it. Here are a few "You know you're around a Servant Leader if" ideas:
- The Servant Leader is the one who raises her hand on a Friday afternoon to stay late and put the finishing touches on a project. And doesn't complain.
- The Servant Leader is the one who takes the first step to build a friendship with a co-worker, and doesn't just ask a lot of curious questions but opens up, too.
- The Servant Leader is the one who is quick to apologize and take ownership for something not going as promised, without defensiveness or rationalization.
- The Servant Leader actively wonders what he can do to care for, serve, bless and anticipate the needs of his professor/supervisor/mentor.
- The Servant Leader is the one who quickly praises the efforts and contributions of her teammates.
Servant Leaders care, listen, take responsibility, live out of humility, persevere, build others up, and work with excellence and creativity. They are strong, grounded, and dependable. They are friendly and conscientious. They are, in short, wonderful employees, friends, and participants. They also make the best leaders and managers.
If you are a Gen Y'er (18-32), you WILL shine if you are a Servant Leader. If you manage a Gen Y'er, you will maximize the potential of your report if you lead with a Servant Leadership posture.
More to come...
I know that many college students and recent grads are overwhelmed by the dismal job market that's reported on ad nauseam via news sources. But let me tell you something: THERE ARE JOBS OUT THERE FOR YOU.
Well, maybe I should qualify that. There are jobs out there for young people (with a college degree) who have:
- Clarity, conviction and passion about who they are and what they're looking for
- Professional acumen
- Social skills
Specifically, let's address the professionalism that you'll need in order to set yourself up well for a job search- professionalism that will set you apart from your peers because HARDLY ANYONE KNOWS WHAT TO DO:
: when a professional contact or friend gives you the name, number or email of someone and tells/asks you to get in touch with them- DO IT!!! I can't tell you how many times I've had professional friends of mine bemoan the lack of follow through that a student took with an introduction they offered to them. 2. Confidence
: obviously you can't fake this, but you can lean into a confident attitude if you try. Confidence comes through via firm handshake, eye contact, asking good questions, and comfortable body language. 3. Gratitude
: it's so easy to do but so easy to forget- always, always, always thank someone for their time, for an introduction and for their advice (even if you don't take it!). My advice: send a thank-you email AND a physical note in the mail within 24 hours. 4. Active listening
: bad listening breeds mistrust and discourages someone from helping you. It comes in the form of checking your phone or sending a text during a meeting, avoiding eye contact, failing to ask questions or follow-up questions. And, of course, it comes in failing to follow-through.5. Don't waste time
: come prepared. Ask questions that show you did your research. Do your research. Don't interview if you have no intention of taking the internship or job. Don't interview if you don't have the time or capacity to take the job.
Look, people really want to help college student and recent grads (read this
). Help them, help you.
By the way, it's never too late to follow through, or to apologize for that matter. If you've violated one of these principles, that's okay- own it, apologize, and see if there's still graciousness in your direction. Humility goes a long way in building friendships and relationships that last. It's also a great
Riffing off of a concept Dr. Amy Sherman
shares in her new InterVarsity Press
book, Kingdom Calling
, Gen Y Servant Leaders are known for blooming where they're planted.
Gen Y Servant Leaders who bloom well: fully invest themselves in their current work; give full engagement and attention; and give their full effort. Here are a couple practical ways to bloom well:
- Care well for the people in your relational circle
: I'm guessing that there are a couple or a few people that you interact with frequently (think about who you sit around in class, members of your group project, professors, or co-worker) that you wouldn't normally CHOOSE to hang out with if you could. Well, servant leaders care for them anyway, by listening, showing compassion, being interested in their story, anticipating their needs, and offering your friendship.
- Work excellently
: one of the hallmarks of the way God works is that it's done with excellence (think the creation story in Genesis 1, "and it was good"). David Pyke
, dean of the school of business at USD, frequently talks about excellence as a key pillar to working in the same spirit and legacy of God himself. Doing your work with excellence will: change your attitude, increase your job satisfaction, produce better results, bring life into your team, and help you experience God's presence.
If you're currently a student, what would change if you focused on blooming where you're planted?
If you're in a job you don't enjoy, what kind of blooming strategy can you come up with to discover meaning and impact?
And, what would it look like to bloom well AND spread the seed of excellence and relational care to those around you?
has written more books
and given more speeches than days you've been alive, most likely. His classic book, The One Minute Manager
was written in 1982, and it alone has sold more than 13 million copies. His company and products have helped thousands of organizations lead at a higher level and reach organizational health and success.
But it's probably the leadership model he developed in the 1960's with Paul Hersey called Situational Leadership II
that has transformed the framework for leadership development forever. The model is useful for managers, for teams, organizations, and for leading yourself. The basic concepts involve diagnosing someone's current developments needs and applying the appropriate leadership style you or someone else needs in order to develop to the next level.
It's practical, memorable, and extremely effective.
It's also the leadership model that YOU need to learn. Jen Zingg
works with the Blanchard Foundation, and has translated the corporate material for middle school, high school and college students, and it's the absolute best material out there, and college students who learn and apply the material are light years
ahead of their peers as they enter the workforce.
Here's what it teaches you:
- Situational Self Leaders understand that they are responsible for their own development. Gen Y'ers are notorious for pushing their development needs upward to their supervisors and waiting for someone to anticipate their every need and hold their hand. You need to learn that you are responsible for your needs and only you know what you need at any given time.
- Situational Self Leaders are experts at leadership diagnosis. They know when they're stuck, where they're stuck, and why they're stuck. They are able to think for themselves and work themselves out of a jam. Supervisors LOVE that.
- Situational Self Leaders impact and transform organizational culture. Rather than complain about upper management, they take the lead for their own development and encourage their peers to do the same. It's contagious.
- Situational Self Leaders develop and grow faster. They proactively seek feedback, which is the most important thing young leaders need to grow.
- Situational Self Leaders are servant leaders. They are self-aware and humble to admit their weaknesses, and they invite other voices into their work.
- Situational Self Leaders find joy and meaning in work. They understand that there's more to work than widgets and spreadsheets, they know that they're on a track to grow into their potential and impact the organization and world for good.
- Situational Self Leaders get promoted to be leaders. They are recognized for their maturity, responsibility, and influence.
The Student Situational Self Leadership curriculum can change the course that you're on. It can help you reach your potential, grow as a leader, impact others for good, and be more successful. Interested? Contact me to schedule a training.
Servant leadership is a buzz-term used a lot in leadership circles- books
, talks, etc. Someone recently said to me, "I don't understand what servant leadership means. How can a servant be a leader? That makes no sense!"
It's true, I think. Servant leadership can be a nebulous concept and sound fluffy.
Here's a quick attempt to put some teeth to it:
The classic story in the gospels told about Jesus that exemplifies his life as a servant leader, comes from the gospel of John, in chapter 13. It's where he takes the initiative to wash the feet of his disciples, a humiliating act that only servants or slaves would perform. There's no slave present, and typically the lowest person on the social status ladder would be obligated to wash the feet of the other guests. Even though he's clearly in charge as a respected rabbi, Jesus shocks the dinner party and does the unthinkable. Here's what he says as he wraps up:
"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him."
That's what servant leadership looks like. It's those moments when you're presented with a difficult choice, and although everything inside says, "I shouldn't have to do that!" (I have a college degree! I was the head of my sorority! This is an unpaid internship!), you do it anyways.
I'm sure Jesus could have easily gotten away with not washing the feet. But what a powerful example he made. True leaders who influence towards the greater good don't hide behind their positions. They don't operate from ego or power or coercion. They anticipate needs of others. They raise their hands on Friday afternoons to complete the weekend project. They bring in coffee for their teammates. They run to make copies. They ask what else they can do to help.
True servant leadership always pushes past the "Why should I?" feeling and into the space that challenges the ego of others. And, true servant leadership comes from a servant heart- not from a strategy to be more influential but from a heart like Jesus'. A servant leader has the innate character to serve others.
Where in your life do you need to raise your hand and go first?