Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 144 pages. 2012
The authors follow-up their excellent book The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, with this book, also written as a leadership fable. In this book, we meet Blake, an energetic, yet reluctant emerging leader. His father Jeff, a wonderful leader, recently died suddenly. The last thing his father said to Blake was “You can be a leader”. But Blake isn’t sure that he can be a leader, or even if he wants to be a leader, following in the footsteps of his father.
Debbie Brewster, who was mentored by Blake’s father, plays the part of trusted mentor to Blake. Throughout the book, we sit in several mentoring meetings between the two. But, before Debbie begins to mentor Blake on leadership, her first priority is to help Blake find a job as he graduates from college.
Blake accepts a position on a cross-functional team at Dynastar, where he is mentored by Sam. As Blake begins his career at Dynastar, he continues to mentor with Debbie, telling her that he wants to know how he can GROW as a leader. Throughout their meetings, Debbie shares with him four big ideas, using the acronym GROW, that if applied consistently, will enable him to be a leader for life.
At Dynastar, Blake’s supervisor is Ms. Barnwell. She is known to hold very short meetings and get right to the point. There is not a good relationship between Ms. Barnwell and the team. In addition, Dynastar has been losing clients, and team members, especially Sam, are fearful of losing their jobs. It is not a good environment, to say the least.
Sam and Blake propose forming a cross-functional team to pinpoint the problems and look for clues to a solution. They propose talking to customers and senior leaders in the organization. Will the cross-functional team be able to identify the problems and recommend solutions before it’s too late for Dynastar? And will Debbie be successful as she mentors Blake on leadership?
I’ve benefited from several Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller books in the past, and this one is no exception. This quick-read would be a good one to read with members of your leadership team, especially young and emerging leaders. The book also includes some helpful resources, including assessments and a recommended reading list.
Below are some of my takeaways from the book:
- The path to increased influence, impact, and leadership effectiveness is paved with personal growth.
- Growth is at the heart of what creates and sustains great leaders.
- The failure to grow sabotages the career of more leaders than anything else.
- Our capacity to grow determines our capacity to lead.
- Anytime you influence the thinking, beliefs, or development of another person, you’re engaging in leadership
- If you don’t want to serve, you cannot be a great leader.
- Great leaders don’t think less of themselves; they just think of themselves less.
- Leadership is not about position. It’s about influence.
- Every leader is a learner.
- Teaching is one of the primary ways that leaders learn.
- Leadership is about serving your people as you work together toward a shared vision.
- If you get too busy with your job to grow, your influence and your leadership will stagnate and ultimately evaporate.
- If you ever think you’re finished as a leader, you are finished as a leader.
.Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Leadership Role Model of All Time by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. Thomas Nelson. 254 pages. 2008 edition
I recently reread this book, which was the first, and I believe, still the best, treatment of servant leadership that I have read. The authors tell us that 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.
The authors tell us that 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.
The authors indicate that leadership is a process of influence. Anytime you seek to influence the thinking, behavior, or development of people in their personal or professional lives, you are taking on the role of a leader. The key question is going to be whether we seek to be served, or to be served.
The authors describe two primary types of leadership – life role and organizational. Life role leadership functions in enduring relationships (parent, spouse, sibling, friend, citizen), while organizational leadership involves positions and titles bestowed at the convenience of the organization to serve the perceived needs and culture of the organization. The most dramatic difference between life role leadership and organizational leadership involves the permanence of the relationships the leader is trying to influence. The authors tell us that most of the leadership that shapes our lives does not come from leaders with titles on an organization chart; it comes from leaders in our daily life role relationships.
Every leader must answer two critical questions: 1. Whose am I? 2. Who am I? The first question— “Whose am I?”—deals with choosing the primary authority and audience for your life. The second question— “Who am I?”—deals with your life purpose.
The authors write that there are two aspects of leading like Jesus. The first is an understanding that leading like Jesus is a transformational journey. The second and most important, which is the essence of their book, is to learn and internalize the four domains of leadership.
Leading like Jesus is a transformational cycle that begins with personal leadership, then moves to leading others in one on one relationships, then to leading a team or group, and finally to leading an organization or community. Leading like Jesus involves the alignment of four leadership domains: heart, head, hands, and habits. When your heart, head, hands, and habits are aligned, extraordinary levels of loyalty, trust, and productivity will result. The book goes into detail on each of these four leadership domains in a practical and helpful manner.
The concepts in this book are not complex but they are challenging. They can be applied at any level of leadership, from the family to the corporate board room. To assist the reader, the book includes “Pause and Reflect” stops in each chapter to give you a chance to let the message to penetrate your heart as well as your mind. A helpful “Summary” is included at the end of each chapter and a detailed “Discussion Guide” is included at the end of the book, which includes a summary of key concepts contained in the book and a series of discussion questions. The Discussion Guide allows this to be an excellent book to read and discuss with others.
I highly recommend this book for those who want to be servant leaders.
Servant Leadership: Leading Like Jesus, Part 1
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.
- Leadership is a process of influence. Anytime you seek to influence the thinking, behavior, or development of people in their personal or professional lives, you are taking on the role of a leader. The key question is going to be whether we seek to be served, or to be served.
- The authors describe two primary types of leadership – life role and organizational. Life role leadership functions in enduring relationships (parent, spouse, sibling, friend, citizen), while organizational leadership involves positions and titles bestowed at the convenience of the organization to serve the perceived needs and culture of the organization. The most dramatic difference between life role leadership and organizational leadership involves the permanence of the relationships the leader is trying to influence. Most of the leadership that shapes our lives does not come from leaders with titles on an organization chart; it comes from leaders in our daily life role relationships.
- Every leader must answer two critical questions: 1. Whose am I? 2. Who am I? The first question— “Whose am I?”—deals with choosing the primary authority and audience for your life. The second question— “Who am I?”—deals with your life purpose.
- Leading like Jesus is a transformational cycle that begins with personal leadership, then moves to leading others in one on one relationships, then to leading a team or group, and finally to leading an organization or community. Leading like Jesus involves the alignment of four leadership domains: heart, head, hands, and habits. When your heart, head, hands, and habits are aligned, extraordinary levels of loyalty, trust, and productivity will result.
THE HEART OF A SERVANT LEADER
- Effective leadership starts on the inside; it is a heart issue. If we don’t get the heart right, then we simply won’t ever become servant leaders like Jesus. The most persistent barrier to leading like Jesus is a heart motivated by self-interest.
- The authors introduce the concept of your EGO. Do you seek to Edge God Out or to Exalt God Only in the way you exert influence on those around you? The answer to that question reveals whether you are driven to protect and promote yourself or called to a higher purpose of service.
- Edging God Out leaders have problems with pride and fear.
- Three distinctive patterns of behavior mark the difference between self-serving leaders and servant leaders: how you handle feedback, how you handle successor planning, and your perspective of who you think leads and who follows.
- A leaders’ legacy is not just limited to what they accomplished, but it includes what they leave behind in the hearts and minds of those with whom they have had a chance to teach and work.
- The mirror image of Edging God Out is Exalting God Only. The key to this transformation is altaring your leadership EGO. Here, false pride and fear are replaced by humility and God-grounded confidence.
- Leading like Jesus means leading with humility, which requires knowing whose you are and who you are. Humility is realizing and emphasizing the importance of others. It is not putting yourself down; it is lifting others up.
- To successfully combat the temptation to be self-serving in your leadership, every day you must put your EGO on the altar and Exalt God Only.
- One of the most frequent tests of whether we have the heart attitude required to lead like Jesus is how we deal with the failures of those we lead to perform according to plan. Forgiveness is a hallmark of what it means to lead like Jesus.
THE HEAD OF A SERVANT LEADER
- There are two parts to the servant leadership that Jesus exemplified:
- A visionary/direction, or strategic, role – the leadership aspect of servant leader. This role sets the course and the destination.
- An implementation, or operational, role – the servant aspect of servant leadership. This is about doing things right, with a focus on serving.
- To engage the hearts and minds of others, you must be able to communicate the following three things as you cast a compelling vision:
- Your purpose. A clear purpose sets the direction for where you are going.
- Your picture of the future. What will the future look like if things are running as you planned?
- Your values. What will govern how you behave in your organization? Values are the nonnegotiable principles that define character in a leader. True success in servant leadership depends on how clearly the values are defined, ordered, and lived by the leader.
- Without a clear vision, the rest of your leadership skill and effort won’t matter.
- Once your vision is set, you can then establish goals to answer the question: what do you want people to focus on now?
- Once people have a picture of where you want to take them and why, the leadership emphasis switches to the second role of leadership— implementation. The leader then becomes, in a sense, a servant of the vision, by serving the people who are being asked to act according to the vision and accomplish the goals.
- The traditional pyramid hierarchy must be turned upside down so the frontline people who are closest to the customers are at the top, where they can be responsible – able to respond to the customers. In this scenario, leaders serve and are responsive to the needs of their people, training and developing them so they can accomplish established goals and live according to the vision they have of the customer experience. When the frontline people are empowered to take care of the customers, the role of the designated leader moves to the bottom of the hierarchy, where leadership becomes an act of service.
- When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He was, in a sense, transitioning His focus from the visionary role of servant leadership to the implementation role. He demonstrated the true essence of servant leadership and challenged His disciples to do the same.
- The implementation role of leadership is where most leaders and organizations get in trouble. The traditional hierarchical pyramid is kept alive and well so that all the energy is moving away from the customers, up the hierarchy, because people feel they must please their bosses, leaving the customers neglected at the bottom of the hierarchy.
- Servant leadership starts with a vision and ends with a servant heart that helps people live according to that vision.
THE HANDS OF A SERVANT LEADER
- You show what is in your heart and head in what you do with your hands: your motivations.
- A key activity of an effective servant leader is to act as a performance coach, making an ongoing investment into the lives of those who follow. There are three parts to becoming a performance coach: performance planning, day-to-day coaching, and performance evaluation. When it comes to day-to-day coaching, the hierarchy starts to turn upside down, and servant leaders begin to work for their people. Coaching is the most important servant leadership element in helping people to accomplish their goals.
THE HABITS OF A SERVANT LEADER
- Your habits are those activities you do in order to stay on track with God and others. Jesus stayed on track with His mission by applying five key habits:
- Study and application of Scripture
- Accepting and responding to God’s unconditional love
- Involvement in supportive relationships
- Adopting these same habits is essential for those who seek to follow Jesus as their role model for leadership.
These are my primary takeaways from the book, though I could list many more. If you have read the book, what would you add?
The Generosity Factor: Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure by Ken Blanchard and Truett Cathy. Zondervan. 138 pages. 2009
This book, about stewardship and the joy we can find in giving, is written like most of Ken Blanchard’s books, communicating his messages through a leadership fable. Blanchard wrote the book with Truett Cathy. Those familiar with the life of the Chick Fil-A founder will recognize many things in the book that point to his life and the culture of Chick Fil-A.
In the book, we are introduced to a few primary characters. First, we meet the Broker, a young man who has a successful online brokerage house. But he rejected his father’s attempts to instill an old-fashioned work ethic in him. He is disgusted by an unkempt Bag Lady who he sees daily outside of his high-rise, eventually calling the police on her.
We also meet the Broker’s Driver, who served time as a young man, but benefitted significantly from the Teacher, who poured her life into the young men in the institution. As a result, today the Driver is known as a gentle, caring man, a father and husband.
We are introduced to the Executive, who built a multi-state chain of auto parts and service centers from a simple idea in a single location. He now has more than eight hundred auto service centers and parts outlets scattered throughout the southwestern United States.
The Broker reads a story in his favorite financial newspaper about the Executive who claims that the greatest joy in his life was his ability to give to others. This is inconceivable to the Broker, who decides to call the Executive. That conversation leads to the Broker, described as the hardest, coldest man in New York, to travel to meet the Executive, who may well be the most tenderhearted man in Denver.
Over the course of a few days the Executive shares with the Broker the elements of a plan that makes it a pleasure to give, which he calls the Generosity Factor, to the Broker. The Executive shares his secret so that the Broker can change his world, just as the Executive has changed his. He shares concepts such as Time, Talent, Treasure and Touch, as well as the impact his faith has had on his generosity. He also shares the “three M’s”, Master, Mission and Mate and the importance of the blessings in our lives. But will the Executive be able to get through to the cold-hearted Broker?
I really enjoyed this simple story that communicates important truths.
Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results. Edited by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 265 pages. 2018
In the “Foreword” to this collection of essays about servant leadership, John Maxwell writes that he and Ken Blanchard have believed that the only way to create great relationships and results is through servant leadership. He writes that it’s all about putting other people first. Over the past several years, I have greatly benefited from the teaching on servant leadership from Maxwell, Blanchard and many of the contributors in this book.
In the “Introduction”, Blanchard writes that the world is in desperate need of a different leadership role model, as we have all seen the negative impact of self-serving leaders in every sector of our society. He tells us that servant leadership was central to the philosophy of Jesus. While several of the contributors are Christians, a major goal of the book is to prove that servant leadership has application in both secular and spiritual leadership in every kind of organization, including business, government, education, and places of worship.
The book is aimed at anyone in a leadership position. The contributors hope that one day all will be impacted by someone who is a servant leader, and self-serving leaders will be a thing of the past.
The book is organized into six parts:
Part One: Fundamentals of Servant Leadership
Part Two: Elements of Servant Leadership
Part Three: Lessons in Servant Leadership
Part Four: Exemplars of Servant Leadership
Part Five: Putting Servant Leadership to Work
Part Six: Servant Leadership Turnarounds
Short essays are written by a literal “Who’s Who” of leadership, authors that have had a positive impact on my leadership such as Blanchard, Patrick Lencioni,
Stephen M.R. Covey, Mark Miller, Simon Sinek, Marshall Goldsmith, Henry Cloud and Dave Ramsey. Blanchard provides a short introduction to each of the essays.
There is so much of value in this book that it can be overwhelming. What I would recommend is to go through the book and read Blanchard’s short introductions to decide if you want to read that particular essay at this time.
A few of the many takeaways I had from the book were:
What is Servant Leadership? by Ken Blanchard
There are two parts to servant leadership:
- A visionary/direction, or strategic, role – the leadership aspect of servant leader; and
- An implementation, or operational, role – the servant aspect of servant leadership.
To me, servant leadership is the only way to guarantee great relationships and results.
Servant Leadership at the Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey
I became increasingly convinced that the practices of servant leadership and trust are inextricably linked. Today, I find it difficult to talk about serving without also talking about trust – and vice versa.
The strong bias of the servant leader is to extend trust to others.
The Evolution of Servant Leadership by Simon Sinek
Though someone may choose servant leadership for the results, the reason we continue to practice the discipline is for the joy of the journey.
One Question Every Servant Leader Should Ask by Marshall Goldsmith
Am I willing at this time to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?
In the Service of Others: When Leaders Dare to Rehumanize Work by Brene Brown
Servant leadership and shame culture cannot coexist for a simple reason: the foundation of servant leadership is courage and shame breeds fear.
Compassion: The Heart of Servant Leadership by Craig Groeschel
True servant leadership means you are called to care – not to just feel sorry for someone or feel sympathy or empathy – but to do something. Why? Because to say you care, and then not act, is to not care at all. True servant leadership cares. And because it cares, it must act.
A Baptism of Leadership by Erwin Raphael McManus
We tend to want God’s power but not His character. Yet only when we embrace His character are we trustworthy with His power. Servant leadership understands that our calling is not to overpower but to empower.
Jesus: The Greatest Example of a Servant Leader by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges
For followers of Jesus, servant leadership is not an option; servant leadership is a mandate.
Leading is Serving by Dave Ramsey
If there’s one key to servant leadership, it’s pretty simple: put other people first.
This would be an excellent book to read and discuss with other leaders in a “Book Club” setting.
A Servant Leadership in Action Livecast was held on February 28. You can watch the event here.
Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life by Ken Blanchard and Morton Shaevitz. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 144 pages. 2015. Audiobook read by Joe Bronzi
I have read a number of books by Ken Blanchard and have seen him speak several times as well. He is the author of such books as The One Minute Manager and Lead Like Jesus. Last year I read his book Trust Works! See my review here.
As I am now much closer to retirement than to the beginning of my career, the subject of this book resonated with me. The book asks the question “As you approach the remainder of your life, what are you going to do to make it joyful and meaningful?” The authors point out that too many people see their later years as a time to endure rather than as an exciting opportunity. The authors worked to identify the factors that cause some people to become old before their time. They found four characteristics that distinguish people who feel innovative and vibrant from those who feel as if they are in a rut intellectually, emotionally, physically, or spiritually.
They use a parable to tell the story of Larry and Janice Sparks. We meet them at their 45th high school reunion. They run into Dr. Jeffrey, who was one of their high school teachers. Dr. Jeffrey is now a college professor and living life with passion and gusto. The two decide to ask for some refiring coaching from Dr. Jeffrey. He takes them on a refiring journey, asking them to meet with different people along each step of the journey as he challenges them to refire emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually.
- Refire Emotionally
- Larry and Janice form a “Last Minute Club” with their friends to demonstrate that they are flexible and spontaneous. To be honest, flexible and spontaneous are two words that those who know me well would not use to describe me.
- Larry and Janice are encouraged to venture out of their comfort zone. I like and thrive when I am in my comfort zone, but understand how some get in a rut when they are comfortable.
- Refire Intellectually
- Larry and Janice are encouraged to continue to learn new things – read books, take classes. I feel that I am doing well in this area of the refire process, recently completing my seminary education, reading books, listening to podcasts, etc.
- Larry and Janice are encouraged to embrace new technology, though Larry was initially resisting this. Heroes in this area include my mother-in-law and father who are 80+ and have each learned how to use an iPad.
- Refire Physically
- Larry and Janice learned that they can refire physically by:
- Exercise – fun, walk, strength training
- Lose weight by eating better
- Get more rest/sleep
- Refire Spiritually
- The book included vague thoughts on spirituality such as talk about a “higher power”, a “higher mind” and “something bigger than you”.
- Comments like “it doesn’t matter which path you follow” are disappointing from the author of Lead Like Jesus.
- The authors put down “religion” as meaning you have to be right. However, Christians believe there is only one way or path to Heaven and that is through the atoning death of Christ. The authors put forth a pluralistic view of religion.
- On the positive side, there is an emphasis on humility and serving others.
Everyone finds themselves in a rut from time to time. The book shows how people look and deal with aging, and encourages the reader to embrace rather than endure life, or see getting older as a “life sentence”. The takeaways in this short book – there is a helpful “Pause, Reflect and Take Action” section at the end of each chapter – apply to work and life, and could positively impact the rest of your life. The message in the book can resonate not only with older audiences but also with people in their 30s and 40s who may be feeling bored with the status quo and looking to refire aspects of their own lives.