The world is in need of better leadership role models. Around the world—in companies, governments, religious institutions—self-serving leaders have harmed their investors, employees and customers alike. Blanchard offers a critical reminder at a critical time that only by serving others will we ever truly accomplish great results. Here Kevin Kruse, Founder of LEADx.organ online learning company, and writing for Forbes.com interviews Blanchard about Servant Leadership; what it is and what it’s not.
What is “servant leadership” and how can it make you a better leader?
Often in life and work, we become focused on tasks instead of people. If left unchecked, this “results first, team second” mentality can lead to low morale and even lower performances. However, by leading from the ground up and serving your team you end up with a group of high-performing individuals. So how can you tap into servant leadership, and lead your people effectively?
Dr. Ken Blanchard is the co-author of the groundbreaking best-seller, The One Minute Manager. And all of his books combined have had sales of more than 21,000,000 copies and have been translated into 42 languages. His 65th and latest book, Servant Leadership In Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results, is a collection of essays from 44 authorities and practitioners of servant leadership. Blanchard is also the co-founder and Chief Spiritual Officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies, which he started in 1979.
I recently interviewed Blanchard on the LEADx Leadership Show, where we discussed his views on servant leadership and how we can practice it in the everyday workplace. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: You say there are a lot of misconceptions about “servant leadership.” What does it mean to you?
Dr. Ken Blanchard: When I talk to groups, initially they think it’s about the inmates running the prison. But they don’t understand that there are two aspects of servant leadership. The leadership aspect is about vision, direction, and goals. Because leadership is about going somewhere. And that’s the responsibility of the hierarchy.
If people aren’t clear on what business you’re in, what you’re trying to accomplish, your values, your goals, then shame on you. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t involve them. It’s just your responsibility to make sure that that’s clear. And that’s the leadership part of servant leadership. And then, once that’s done, now you move to the servant part of servant leadership. And, philosophically, you’ve got to turn that pyramid upside down, so now you work for your people, who eventually work for your customers.
When people understand that, they really get it. That, “Okay, now once the vision, direction, and goals are clear, the job of the leader is to help people live according to the vision of values and goals, and to be successful.” Now you’re working for them. You’re the head cheerleader.
So often in organizations, you get self-serving leaders. They need that hierarchy to be alive and well, so everybody’s sucking up the hierarchy, and now as a customer, if you have a problem, you’re talking to a duck. And they’re going, “Quack, quack, quack. It’s our policy. Quack, quack. I didn’t make the rules. Quack, quack. Do you want to talk to my supervisor? Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack.”
We call the supervisor a duck, the Head Mallard. They just quack at a higher level. Where if you have a really servant leadership organization, when you’re talking to a front line person, you’re talking to an eagle because they’re allowed to bring their brains to work.
Kruse: How can managers remember that they are not just managers of tasks but leaders of people. How can we put this into our daily and weekly work?
Blanchard: We all have two selves. We have an external task-oriented self that’s used to getting jobs done. Then we have a thoughtful, reflective self.
Now, which of those two selves wakes up quicker in the morning? Of course, when the alarm goes off, you jump out of bed, and you’re into your task-oriented self. You’re trying to eat while you’re washing, you’re on the phone in the car, then you’re in a meeting, and you’re running around.
People are so into their task-oriented self, that they really don’t have time to reflect on who they want to be in the world, and how they want to be that day. So one of the things I’ve talked about is that, if you want to be an effective servant leader, you have to enter your day slowly. And by saying that, I’m not talking about hours. But taking at least 10 minutes. I like to sit on the side of the bed and think about, “Okay, what do I have on my calendar for today? How do I want to be today? What do I want to do?” That’s really very helpful in setting a day.
The world is in need of better leadership role models. Around the world—in companies, governments, religious institutions—self-serving leaders have harmed their investors, employees and customers alike. Blanchard offers a critical reminder at a critical time that only by serving others will we ever truly accomplish great results.