In our series on leadership attributes, we now look at servanthood, or more commonly known as servant leadership. Entire books have been written about servant leadership. Here are five books that I have read and recommend, and more are being written all the time. For example, in the book Lead Like Jesus Revisited, Ken Blanchard, Phil Hodges and Phyllis Hendry tell us that for followers of Jesus, servant leadership is not an option, but a mandate. They tell us that leading like Jesus in an organization creates a new culture that affects all relationships and every result. It requires leaders to be shepherds and servants who value each person as an integral part of the organization. Continue reading
Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust by Ken Blanchard and Randy Conley. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 162 pages. 2022
The format for this helpful book is simple. For each of the 52 simple truths – one for each week of the year – on the left page the authors identify a Simple Truth about servant leadership (written by Ken Blanchard) or building trust (written by Randy Conley). On the right page, the authors describe the puzzling lack of use of the concept, and briefly explain why it is important. The final element is a call to action for readers – “Making Common Sense Common Practice” – where the authors break down the concept into ideas that leaders can easily apply on the job.
The book is arranged with 26 Simple Truths on servant leadership written by Blanchard, followed by 26 Simple Truths on building trust written by Conley. There are a variety of ways that you can read the book. For example, you can read the Simple Truths in order, focusing on one to apply each week of the year. A “Discussion Guide” is included at the end of the book, with twenty-four discussion prompts that touch on topics relating to servant leadership and building trust. This is a good book to read and discuss with other leaders or emerging leaders.
As a leader, I never bought into the philosophy of treating everyone the same. I tried to treat each person on my teams as an individual, according to their specific needs and personality. I didn’t treat everyone the same, but I did treat all with equity.
On my teams I found that there are some team members who are consistently solid. They aren’t looking for any advancement and just love what they are doing. In fact, if they could, they would stay in their positions for a long time. In my experience, there were two categories of employees that I spent the most time with.
- High potential employees who wanted to continue to grow and advance within their role or the organization. The individuals in this category were highly motivated and demonstrated excellent attitudes. Many were interested in advancing to a leadership position, while some were working toward a promotion in their current role. I would help them to find stretch assignments to continue to grow, as well as suggest some mentors for them. Also, in this category were those I was mentoring. I always enjoyed working with mentees, and never turned anyone down who asked to be in a mentoring relationship with me. I always saw it as giving back to others, just as my career mentor did for me.
- Those with performance problems. The individuals in this category were struggling with their performance for one reason or another. It could be that they were in a position that was not a good fit for their skills, they may have been struggling with attendance issues and thus not able to consistently produce for their teams, or they were not be fully engaged or had a poor attitude. The goal of working with these team members was always to help restore them to being solid performers. Many times, that was the result, but unfortunately there were some times when that was the not result, and those were some of my most difficult times as a leader.
I love a good redemption story. Someone who fell into this second category turned out to be one of the most pleasant stories in my career. For whatever reason, she had a year in which she did not perform up to expectations. Her leaders knew it and she knew it. Prior to that year she had been a solid performer. When she came to my team, she told me that level of performance wasn’t her, and she would show me just that, which she did. She immediately re-established herself not only as a solid performer, but as a top performer. Within a few years she was in a leadership development assignment, capping off the most significant turnaround I saw in my career.
I would encourage you to treat each person on your team according to their own talents and needs. As a leader, who did you tend to spend the most time with on your teams?
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. Continue reading
The Kindle edition of my new book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace will be on sale for just $.99 for one week, beginning at 10:00 am CST August 6. The sale will end at 2:00 am CST on August 13.
In the book I share what I’ve learned about calling, vocation, work and leadership from my experience of leading in both the general marketplace and the church for more than 40 years.
Here are a few endorsements for the book:
“I rejoice to read sound words on how to integrate a Christian leader’s faith and work from such a faithful elder, who has immersed himself in the contemporary and historical writings of Reformed theologians and the essence of the Gospel. Bill Pence’s own integrated leadership in this area has spread by his mentoring of other leaders in the workplace and the “pews,” his Coram Deo blog, and his service in his local church. God has made Bill a rich resource to recover what was lost in the divide between faith and work.”
Dr. Robert Davis Smart, Senior Pastor of Christ Church (PCA), Normal, Illinois and author of many books including Waging War in an Age of Doubt Continue reading
In the first part of our three-part series, we looked at my takeaways from the book Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. In part two, we looked at my takeaways from a few other books on servant leadership that I would commend to you, and in this third part, I’ll look at my takeaways from a few more books. Continue reading
In the first part of our series, we looked at my servant leadership takeaways from the book Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. Now I want to look at my takeaways from three books on servant leadership that I would commend to you. Continue reading
When I worked with team members and mentees who were emerging leaders, I would tell them that I wanted them to be leaders that others would want to follow. Now, in my organization, and perhaps in yours, neither leaders nor team members often got to pick who they work with. But I wanted those emerging leaders to be the type of leaders that people would want to work for if they had the chance. I was always overjoyed when I got to work with an individual more than once, and I was blessed to work with a few people three and four different times.
When I talk about a leader worth following, what I am describing is level 2, or “Permission” in John Maxwell’s “Five Levels of Leadership”. A description of the level 2 is:
“Level 2 is based on relationship. At this level, people choose to follow because they want to. In other words, they give the leader Permission to lead them. To grow at this level, leaders work on getting to know their people and connecting with them. Level 2 is where solid, lasting relationships are built that create the foundation for the next level”.
Why is it important to be a leader who others want to follow? Marcus Buckingham has said that “People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers”. Maxwell says that “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision”. Continue reading
I’m a huge proponent of servant leadership. It’s the way I try to lead, and I believe it is the best leadership model. I’ve read many good books on the topic, with the first, and best, being Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. In this two-part series on servant leadership, I’ll first look at takeaways from that book, and in part two, I’ll look at what I’ve earned from a few other books on the subject.
- The world is in desperate need of a different leadership role model. Many leaders act as if the sheep are there only for the benefit of the shepherd. The good news is that there is a better way. There is one perfect leadership role model you can trust, and His name is Jesus.
- Self-promotion (pride) and self-protection (fear) are the reigning motivations that dominate the leadership landscape today. But Jesus is clear about how He wants us to lead: He asks us to make a difference in our world by being effective servant leaders. For followers of Jesus, servant leadership isn’t an option; it’s a mandate.
I’m a strong proponent of servant leadership. I’ve previously shared four reasons why I aspire to be a servant leader. You can read that article here.
I’ve read many books about leadership over the years, and several about servant leadership in particular. Below are 5 books on servant leadership, plus a bonus chapter, that I recommend you read if you would like to find out more about the topic.