Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Serving Leader by Ken Jennings and John Stahl-Wert

Today, Servant Leadership is taking a prominent place not only in volunteer driven organizations, but also in corporates. With the growing number of "matrix organizations" and teams embracing "Agile" for project delivery and led by a Scrum Master, Servant Leadership skills are the need of the hour.

I had a chance to read the book "The Serving Leader" from the Ken Blanchard Series, written by Ken Jennings and John Stahl-Wert. The authors have sandwiched the Servant Leadership lessons in a fictional story. This blog post summarizes some key lessons and learnings from the book.

The following are the 5 powerful actions that the authors teach for you to transform your team, your business and your community:
  1. Run to Great Purpose 
    • To do the most impossible good, strive for the impossible
    • Sustain the greatest interest in pursuits beyond self-interest
  2. Upend the Pyramid
    • You qualify to be first by putting other people first
    • Your are in charge principally to charge up others
  3. Build on Strengths
    • To address your weaknesses, focus on your strengths
    • You can't become the best unless other do, too 
  4. Raise the Bar
    • To serve the many, you first serve the few
    • The best reach-down is a challenging reach-up
  5. Blaze the Trail
    • To protect your value, you must give it all away
    • Your biggest obstacle is the one that hinders someone else

Source: The Serving Leader, by Ken Jennings and John Stahl-Wert

Some traits of a servant leader and key messages worth noting from the book:

  1. He spent a lot of time in activity that looked more like "teaching" than "managing"
  2. He was known for setting high goals and standards.
  3. He encouraged risk taking, though he wasn't afraid to remove people for "persistent" underperformance
  4. He unleashes the strengths, talents and passions of those he or she serves
  5. When she points out a problem, she also offered several solutions and she always showed up when it was time to do the hard work of implementation
  6. She constantly gets her ego out of the way and builds up the confidence / self-esteem of others
  7. By putting others first, the Serving Leader is able to catalyze the creation of high performance teams
  8. He ensures that the right people join the team, those with the right skills and values, those who embrace the same shared purpose. He is tough on selecting people and setting standards
  9. In order to serve many people, the servant leader at first picks just a few other leaders to serve, people who can meet the Servant Leadership standards
  10. He ensures that "activity" is no substitute for "results". At first its about being selective in choosing the leaders you're going to work with. And second, it's about continually raising the expectations for performance
  11. When the performance of an individual doesn't improve after "heavy coaching", the Servant Leader helps him or her get a position somewhere else
  12. People by nature try to live up to what others expect of them. That's true for rich and poor, people who have an easy life or a hard one. Expect little, and we live up to the expectation. Expect a lot, and we stretch and grow to meet the expectation. What kind of service is it... when you deny a person the challenge to become really terrific
  13. Life is too short to waste on sentimental pursuits that don't actually improve anything
  14. Servant Leaders teach others the knowledge, skills and strategies they need to succeed. And the Servant Leaders work hard to get obstacles out of their team's way so that the team can make progress.
  15. Servant Leaders build teaching organizations to create excellence at every level. Leaders who teach become consistent in their own performance.
  16. Community happens when everyone rolls up their sleeves and gets to work
  17. You get better results by shifting attention away from your weaknesses and focusing on your strengths
  18. Serving leaders articulate a purpose so compelling that people are willing to run toward it. The leaders set the pace and this spirit gets transferred to the people they serve
  19. If the purpose isn't bigger than the people involved, great things wouldn't happen
  20. Mistakes aren't the issue, what you do with them is the issue. Ask to be forgiven for the past, and then seize your future with all you've got. 

If you want to learn more about Servant Leadership, visit the authors' website http://theservingleader.com/
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