Tag Archive for Servant Leadership

Take Care of People

Leadership generally involves two aspects: tasks and people. Often, it seems to be easier for us to give our attention to tasks than it does it people, and it also seems that most leadership books focus more on strategies related to tasks than to people. Maybe that’s because tasks are more definable and more easily organized and planned, while people are more unpredictable and require more emotional investment. But whatever the reason, I believe that a truly effective leader understands the value of people, and knows that people are more important than tasks. It follows then, that a good leader will take care of people.

When I first entered the world of education as a teacher, I was blessed to have both a headmaster and a principal who invested in me and cared about me. And it wasn’t just me; they cared about all of the faculty and staff. I received wonderful support, constructive criticism, and guidance that helped me to develop and flourish. Then there came a time when I experienced some particularly difficult personal circumstances, when the trials of life were overwhelming and I was struggling to manage. During this time, these two individuals – my leaders – lifted me up and walked along side me. Out of these circumstances, and from these leaders, I learned the value and importance of taking care of people.

When I eventually had the opportunity to become an administrator of a school, I carried that experience with me. It became one of my core values, as a headmaster, to take care of the people who worked with and for me. I did it because it had been done for me and had meant so much to me as a teacher, but I soon learned the value of this practice from the leader’s perspective. I learned that when I genuinely cared for and took care of the people who worked for me, the security and significance that resulted for them produced two beneficial responses: 1) they could focus their energy and effort on doing their jobs well, because they were not carrying fear or anxiety from job insecurity, and 2) because they knew I cared, and had tangible evidence to support that belief, they then cared about me and were willing to follow me with enthusiasm.

Kevin Leman and William Pentak communicated this same idea in The Way of the Shepherd, stating clearly, “You have to really care about people. You can go through all the right mechanics, but if you don’t genuinely care about the people who report to you, you’ll never be the kind of leader they’ll drop everything to follow” (2004, p. 27). The point is, people need to know that they matter, and they need to know that you care. And although leadership is about both tasks and people, the mistake that we can easily make is to let tasks and agenda prevent us from caring about people (I spoke about this in a previous post, on the importance of being relational). When we are focusing on ourselves rather than on others, it becomes too easy to think that we must know enough and do enough to lead people effectively, but in reality – as I have frequently heard stated – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Robert Greenleaf, who first developed the modern leadership theory of servant leadership, shared that people “will freely respond only to individuals who are chosen as leaders because they are proven and trusted as servants” (1977, p. 24). He went on to say that a servant-leader is servant first, which “manifests itself in the care taken . . . to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served” (1977, p. 27). Essentially, “servant leadership emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and nurture them” (Northouse, 2013, p. 219). This is the leader who shows his people that he cares about them, and it’s a genuine care (because they can tell if it is not). And this is the type of leadership that I first experienced as a follower, and learned to appreciate so much that it became a primary characteristic of my own leadership.

So I would say to you: People matter; take care of them. When their needs are not being met, they become insecure because they are now concerned about their own needs. When they are insecure in their jobs, they won’t (and can’t) give you their best efforts, because they can’t give you all of their attention – they are now focused on protecting their own needs. When you haven’t shown them that you care about them, you prevent a mutual relationship and response of trust and support, and they are unwilling to follow you wholeheartedly. It may cost you some sacrifice to genuinely care and to take care of them, but the reward in their response will far exceed the sacrifice you make. So, take care of them. And do it because they matter.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power & Greatness (25th Anniversary Edition). Paulist Press: Mahwah, NJ.

Leman, K., and Pentak, W. (2004). The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (6th Edition). Sage Publications: Los Angeles, CA.

What is Transformational Leadership?

When I was in college, I remember hearing a motivational speaker by the name of Charlie “Tremendous” Jones give a message in one of the chapel services. The only thing I can still recall from what he said was the statement that “in 20 years, you will be the same person you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” I am not sure how much we actually change over time, but I am certain that we do change, and I do believe that one of the factors that changes us is the influence of other people. Even in the world of education, where I have spent so much of my time, I have often seen an individual’s behavior drastically change when that individual is placed in some kind of group dynamic (in other words, it seems like children will change their behavior and become like someone else when they get around their friends, either for better or for worse).

Transformational leadership capitalizes on that concept. It can be defined as “the process whereby a person engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower” (Northouse, 2013, p. 186). Transformational leaders are people who are recognized as “change agents who are good role models, who can create and articulate a clear vision for an organization, who empower followers to meet higher standards, who act in ways that make others want to trust them, and who give meaning to organizational life” (p. 214) That description represents the four factors that characterize transformational leadership (the “4 I’s”):

  • Idealized influence: the leaders is a strong role model of behaviors and attributes, an example that followers want to emulate
  • Inspirational motivation: the ability to inspire others to be part of a shared vision
  • Intellectual stimulation: the encouragement of creativity, innovation, and problem-solving
  • Individualized consideration: a supportive approach that takes the time and effort to listen to individual needs, building connection and trust

This approach to leadership focuses on the idea that leaders need to build relationship and connection with followers in order to understand their needs and motives, and then respond or adapt in a way that best meets those needs and appeals to those motives. In the process, both the leader and the followers are changed, or transformed, in positive ways as a result of the genuine relationship that is occurring, and the end result is usually performance by the followers that exceeds expectations. The leader has established trust and provided influence and motivation that results in the desire to please and support, and motivates people to excel for their own benefit and for yours. As Northouse says, “Transformational leadership moves followers to accomplish more than what is usually expected of them” (p. 194). Unlike transactional leadership, in which people follow in exchange for personal benefit (I give you rewards, recognition, or power, and in exchange you follow me), transformational leadership moves people to follow because you, as the leader, make them better, and make them want to be better.

It seems to me that transformational leadership is strongly connected to authentic leadership and to servant leadership. In essence, when a leader is genuine and puts the needs of others first, that leader will reflect the character, influence, and consideration that changes people. I can think of leaders in my own life like that, people who have made me a better person and who have had a transformative influence on me, as I am sure you can as well. That is the type of leader I want to be. I want to be an example that others emulate, I want people to want to follow me, and I want them to feel valued and to be the best they can be. To do that requires the application of transformational leadership principles, so I believe that it is wise for the effective leader to understand, develop, and implement these ideas. Be an example of integrity, understand and encourage your people, and build them up by empowering and challenging them, and giving them the environment and opportunity to respond. Be transformational in your leadership.

What is Servant Leadership?

Robert Greenleaf, who also founded the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, first detailed the modern concept of Servant Leadership.  The primary and foundational principle of the concept is, very simply, putting others first.  In his research, Greenleaf determined that people “will freely respond only to individuals who are chosen as leaders because they are proved and trusted as servants” (2002, p. 24).  He went on to describe a servant-leader as someone who is a servant first, who intentionally works to “make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served” (2002, p. 27).

Servant leadership is defined as a leadership approach in which leaders “place the good of followers over their own self-interests and emphasize follower development” (Northouse, 2012, p. 220).  Further research by others has identified ten characteristics that generally typify a servant-leader:  listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community (Spears, 2002).  In essence, the servant-leader “puts followers first, empowers them, and helps them develop their full personal capacities” (Northouse, 2012, p. 219).

The Servant Leadership model has three components:

  1. Antecedent conditions – these are the existing conditions that affect or influence the process of leadership and its effectiveness, and include context and culture, existing leader attributes and disposition, and follower receptivity to a servant-leader style.
  2. Servant leader behaviors – these are the core behaviors of the servant-leader in the leadership process, and include conceptualizing, emotional healing, putting others first, helping followers to grow and succeed, behaving ethically, empowering, and creating value for the community.  Of these, “putting others first” is the defining characteristic.
  3. Outcomes – these are the potential outcomes or results of effective servant leadership, and include enhanced follower performance, development, and growth, enhanced organizational performance, growth, and citizenship, and positive societal impact.

(Northouse, 2012, pp. 225-232)

Servant Leadership is really all about care for others and taking care of people.  It is people-focused, unselfish, and invests in the lives of others.  Like Authentic Leadership, this is the kind of leadership that builds trust and loyalty, while helping others to maximize their own personal growth and development.  It reinforces the idea of the importance of relationship and care.  As a follower of Jesus, I believe it reflects a biblical model of loving your neighbor as yourself, so it makes sense that I believe an effective leader should be a servant leader.

 

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Greenleaf, R. K. (Larry C. Spears, Ed.)(2002). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness (25th Anniversary Edition). Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Spears, L. C. (2002). Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the 21st century. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

 

Take Care of People

When I first entered the world of education as a teacher, I was blessed to have both a headmaster and a principal who invested in me and cared about me.  And it wasn’t just me; they cared about all of the faculty and staff.  I received wonderful support, constructive criticism, and guidance that helped me to develop and flourish.  Then there came a time when I experienced some particularly difficult personal circumstances, when the trials of life were overwhelming and I was struggling to manage.  During this time, these two individuals – my leaders – lifted me up and walked along side me.  Out of these circumstances, and from these leaders, I learned the value and importance of taking care of people.

When I eventually had the opportunity to become an administrator of a school, I carried that experience with me.  It became one of my core values, as a headmaster, to take care of the people who worked with and for me.  I did it because it had been done for me and had meant so much to me as a teacher, but I soon learned the value of this practice from the leader’s perspective.  I learned that when I genuinely cared for and took care of the people who worked for me, the security and significance that resulted for them produced two beneficial responses:  1) they could focus their energy and effort on doing their jobs well, because they were not carrying fear or anxiety from job insecurity, and 2) because they knew I cared, and had tangible evidence to support that belief, they then cared about me and were willing to follow me with enthusiasm.

Kevin Leman and William Pentak communicated this same idea in The Way of the Shepherd, stating clearly, “You have to really care about people.  You can go through all the right mechanics, but if you don’t genuinely care about the people who report to you, you’ll never be the kind of leader they’ll drop everything to follow” (2004, p. 27).  The point is, people need to know that they matter, and they need to know that you care.  And although leadership is about both tasks and people, the mistake that we can easily make is to let tasks and agendas prevent us from caring about people (I spoke about this in a previous post, on the importance of being relational).  When we are focusing on ourselves rather than on others, it becomes too easy to think that we must know enough and do enough to lead people effectively, but in reality – as I have frequently heard stated – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Robert Greenleaf, who first developed the modern leadership theory of servant leadership, shared that people “will freely respond only to individuals who are chosen as leaders because they are proven and trusted as servants”  (1977, p. 24).  He went on to say that a servant-leader is servant first, which “manifests itself in the care taken . . . to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served” (1977, p. 27).  Essentially, “servant leadership emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and nurture them” (Northouse, 2013, p. 219).  This is the leader who shows his people that he cares about them, and it’s a genuine care (because they can tell if it is not).  And this is the type of leadership that I first experienced as a follower, and learned to appreciate so much that it became a primary characteristic of my own leadership.

So I would say to you:  People matter; take care of them.  When their needs are not being met, they become insecure because they are now concerned about their own needs.  When they are insecure in their jobs, they won’t (and can’t) give you their best efforts, because they can’t give you all of their attention – they are now focused on protecting their own needs.  When you haven’t shown them that you care about them, you prevent a mutual relationship and response of trust and support, and they are unwilling to follow you wholeheartedly. It may cost you some sacrifice to genuinely care and to take care of them, but the reward in their response will far exceed the sacrifice you make.  So, take care of them.  And do it because they matter.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power & Greatness (25th Anniversary Edition). Paulist Press: Mahwah, NJ.

Leman, K., and Pentak, W. (2004). The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (6th Edition). Sage Publications: Los Angeles, CA.