Over the past few weeks I’ve heard about some terrible examples of leadership. In one instance, a twenty-year employee of a major organization walked out because of their leader. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this all that unusual. In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell wrote that people quit people, not companies. Employees often leave companies not because they dislike the company or their job, but rather because they want to escape a particular person, usually their leader.
In another example, a first-line leader held a team meeting to announce changes in work schedules that they knew would not be popular with the team. In doing so, they came equipped with criticism of the team as justification for why the changes were being made. Fortunately, the second-line leader was present and continually softened the blow, indicating that the team was in fact doing good work and was valued, messages that were not made by the first-line leader.Another example of a missed opportunity by a leader was shared with me by a friend. They had worked for more than a year with a leader who was new to the organization. The leader was young and very talented, and was very quickly moved to a senior leadership position. But the leader never bothered to develop a relationship with my friend. Their relationship was strictly business. I asked “So they wouldn’t know your wife’s name?” I was told, “Bill, they wouldn’t even know if I was married”. As a final example of how little the leader cared about my friend, they failed to show up for my friend’s retirement lunch. The empty chair by the leader’s nametag spoke volumes to all who attended the lunch.
Leadership is never a right, but instead it is a privilege. You are given just a short time to make a positive difference in the lives of the people you are blessed to lead in your organization. Jon Bloom in his article Five Marks of a Servant Leader,
writes “All leaders serve only for a season. Some seasons are long, some short; some are abundant, some lean; some are recorded and recalled, most are not. But all seasons end.” But there are some leaders who don’t see it that way. They feel that they are entitled to the leadership position they hold. They don’t see that leaders are to serve those that they lead. Bloom mentions “All professing Christians agree that a Christian leader should be a servant leader.” I see Jesus as my model for leadership. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
I recently read the article The Top 5 Characteristics of Servant Leaders by
David Witt in which he shared the results of a study about servant leadership. He shared that the most prominent servant leadership characteristics were:
- Valuing People
Those characteristics do not match up with the poor leadership examples I mentioned above.
So, what can leaders who want to become servant leaders do? I can think of three things:
Enter into a Mentoring Relationship with a Servant Leader. I start with this one because I think it would be most effective. Search out a leader that you respect and ask them to mentor you. This will show humility on your part, but I believe it will be well worth the effort for you and your team in the long run.
Read Books About Servant Leadership. Leaders should be readers, and there are a number of excellent books about servant leadership. Here are two to start with: The first is Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder, and the second is Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results, edited by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell. I would recommend reading and discussing these books in a Book Club format or with a mentor, if possible.
Attend Leadership Events with Other Leaders. Over the years I’ve enjoyed attending a number of leadership events. I always pick up new ideas to help me become a better leader. For example, I recently attended John Maxwell’s Live2Lead event with a few friends from my former organization. When reading a book or attending an event, take notes and try to put some of the ideas into action.
I have to admit that hearing about bad leadership and the tremendous negative impact on workers saddens (and yes, irritates) me. Don’t be one of those bad leaders. We all need to continuously improve. Why not seek out a mentor and resources to help you do that?
What other ways would you suggest leaders use to improve?