So the question becomes, “how can leaders help their people achieve their greatness?”
My good friends, Ken Jennings and John Stahl-wert say “it’s in serving them.” Their 10th anniversary edition of The Serving Leader lays out 5 powerful actions to transform your team, business, and community.
Here are 5 principles that embody the kind of leadership that leaves a lasting impact.
- Run To A Great Purpose. Every great leader invites people to be part of a cause, not just a company. How are you transforming your organization’s work into a cause? When people are engaged in a cause, they do their best work. It creates both energy and results. Do the people around you understand the purposefulness of their work? There is a certain amount of compliance and performance that comes from a paycheck. However, people bring their “A” game when they connect their work to something meaningful. This is where brilliance and imagination flourish. As one manager of an automobile assembly line said, “we are not just putting on widgets, we are saving lives. “ How can you transform your organization’s work into a cause?
- Upend The Pyramid. This action involves getting our ego out of the way. This leadership behavior allows others to get involved and participate with their excellent ideas. Turning the pyramid upside down is not about letting the inmates run the asylum. It’s about going from “power over” to “power with.” It focuses on mutual learning, shared understanding and coordinated action. Instead of trying to be the smartest person in the room, servant-leaders leverage all the strengths around them. They build interdependent relationships in their organizations and on their teams. Their mindset is what they can do today, their people can do tomorrow.
- Build On Strengths. Leaders are “strength spotters.” They build teams that encourage each person to develop and live out their individual strengths. They see the value of teams with diverse and complimentary talents. They set people up to contribute their very best. Their main focus is not on an individual’s weakness. And for them, assessing a person’s strength is not an exercise in putting someone in a box. It’s a process of helping people develop – even beyond the box.
- Raise The Bar. This involves raising people’s expectations. Expectancy Theory says that you get what you expect from people. Great leaders set those expectations everyday in everyway by raising the bar. It’s not about making people feel good about themselves. It’s the understanding that people development and goal attainment happen simultaneously. Doing important projects with helpful feedback is where real learning takes place. Failures are seen as opportunities to begin again – smarter than before. Raising the bar becomes a part of the organization’s culture. And it helps close the gap between strategy and execution.
- Blaze The Trail. Clear the path. That’s what a trailblazer does. They help people perform by removing barriers. What obstacles are prohibiting your people from doing their best work?
“Ninety percent of what we call ‘management’ consists of making it difficult for people to get things done.” Peter Drucker
Attracting talent is important. But great leaders also spot performance-blocking barriers and bust through them. If you don’t see any then ask your team. “What are the things that stand in the way of your performance?” Don’t pretend you know what they are.
These 5 behaviors are actions that allow great people to achieve their greatness. They work like a fine-tuned engine. They are what servant-leadership is all about, and they allow your people to show up “big.”
Servant leadership goes way beyond just being nice. Research has shown that when leaders serve their customers, their people, their organizations standards and values, the results skyrocket.
I encourage you to read The Serving Leader and do a deeper dive.
Most of the world’s great leaders are not at the top of the pack. They are in the middle. These behavior will help you create great productivity in your space – a place in your organization where people love to work.