The Serving Leader: Five Powerful Actions to Transform Your Team, Business and Community by Kenneth R. Jennings and John Stahl-Wert. 10th Anniversary Edition. Barrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 165 pages. 2016.
This best-selling leadership classic, which no less of a leadership expert as Ken Blanchard has called “the most practical guide available to implementing servant leadership in your life and work” has been revised and updated with a helpful new chapter in a 10th Anniversary Edition. The authors use a compelling and at times quite touching fictional story based on real characters to outline the basics of what they call “Serving Leadership”.
Much as leadership fables by Patrick Lencioni do, this book, though written as fiction, is based on real people, organizations and results achieved. The story revolves around the relationship between Mike Wilson and his successful and respected father Robert Taylor Wilson, the CEO of his organization. Their relationship hasn’t been the best, to say the least. Robert often wasn’t there for Mike growing up. Now he reaches out to Mike, saying that he is ill and needs Mike to step in for him for a while.
When Mike gets to Philadelphia, he is introduced to the “No-Name Team”. They introduce him to the concept of “the Serving Leader”. He is told that this approach paradoxically turns almost all previous thinking about leadership and turns it on its head. To demonstrate this they use an upside-down pyramid.
The plan was for Mike to spend time with each member of the team focusing on the person’s key projects, learning both by observation and getting to work on some of the projects. After Mike finds out that his father is very ill and doesn’t have much time left, he realizes that he has three objectives:
- Learn what Serving Leaders do and how their approach works
- Use the upside-down pyramid to structure what he learns
- Be with his father while he dies
We follow Mike as he spends time with each member of the “No-Name Team”, learning the concepts of a Serving Leader. That leads him to write a job description for the Serving Leader. A summary of that description, using the upside-down pyramid, is that Serving Leaders:
- Run to Great Purpose
- Upend the Pyramid
- Raise the Bar
- Blaze the Trail
- Build on Strength
A helpful new chapter for the 10th Anniversary Edition is “Mike Wilson’s Updates”. In the years since we last heard from Mike, he shares lessons for personal growth and organizational performance by utilizing the Five Powerful Actions of the Serving Leader, putting each lesson into one or another of the actions.
So many themes in the book resonated with me as I too have a passion for serving (servant) leadership, helping people find work that plays to their strengths, learning from failure, etc. I highly recommend this book, which would be a good one to read and discuss with your leadership team or those you are mentoring.
15 Quotes from The Serving Leader by Kenneth R. Jennings and John Stahl-Wert
I recently read 10th Anniversary Edition of The Serving Leader: Five Powerful Actions to Transform Your Team, Business and Community by Kenneth R. Jennings and John Stahl-Wert. Here are 15 helpful quotes that I appreciated from the book:
- The Serving Leader is down here unleashing the strengths, talents and passions of those he or she serves. It works this way for a team of two, a business with a thousand employees, or a community of several million.
- When a leader keeps personal ego in check – and builds the confidence and self-esteem of others – it is then possible for the team to work together.
- I’m realizing that something else is going on that’s very different, that seems almost contradictory. On the one hand, you’re serving people, but on the other hand, you’ve got really tough standards!
- The model used by Jesus of Nazareth is instructive here. He could have chosen from thousands of his eager followers, but he chose only twelve, spending the rest of his time relating to them, serving them, and preparing them to do the very same with others. And look at the multiplied results that today validate his methodology.
- Paradoxically you get better results by shifting attention away from your weaknesses. It’s far more productive to shift your focus to your strengths.
- Serving Leaders are living paradoxes.
- My role model for this business of great purpose is found in one of the oldest management texts in the world. The text is Nehemiah.
- Run to Great Purpose is the first action that makes the Serving Leader. It’s the foundation. Everything else follows.
- Making a difference for others is the point of our lives. It is the great purpose that gives us everything we need to run the best race we can.
- Serving Leadership requires a deep humility and a willingness to pour yourself into the good of others.
- What the greatest Serving Leaders have taught me over the years is that the lion’s share of great acts committed inside great businesses day by day are done by ordinary workers who choose to give their full best.
- Growth in Serving Leadership strengthens organizational performance and strengthens (and also heals) family relationships.
- Great leaders take active steps to really learn who those people (their direct reports) are, who they are as people. They ask them about their lives, their aspirations, their strengths and needs – and then they make sure to really listen!
- If you want your workers to go above and beyond, to dig deep and do their utmost, then you must go above and beyond. Raise the Bar starts with the leader who raises the bar for his own attitudes, intentions, behavior, and results. Leading involves going first, and that is never truer than with the leader’s own commitment to being fully engaged.
- Failure brings with it one of the best chances to grow and develop real strength.