Since decades, most of our leaders are conditioned to think in terms of command and control only. However, the evolution of leadership styles and challenges in the business environment need more effective way of leadership. “There is a better way to lead” Says best-selling business author Ken Blanchard—one that combines equal parts serving and leading. This kind of leadership is led by a special kind of leader: a servant leader.
“In this model,” says Blanchard, “Leaders assume a traditional role to set the vision, direction, and strategy for the organization—the leadership aspect of servant leadership. Once the vision and directions are set, the leader turns the organizational pyramid upside down so that they are able to facilitate and serve the middle managers and frontline people who are in direct contact with the customers. This requires a shift in the role and mindset form that of a leader to that of task implementation—the servant aspect of servant leadership.”
But, most of the organizations and leaders might get into trouble during implementation, warns Blanchard.
“When command-and-control leaders are at the helm, the traditional hierarchical pyramid is kept alive and well. All of the organization’s energy moves up the hierarchy, away from customers and frontline folks who are closest to the action. When there is a conflict between what customers want and what the boss wants, the boss wins.” – Ken Blanchard.
Blanchard suggests that leadership, learning, and talent development professionals can improve this situation by taking the charge and turning the traditional hierarchical pyramid upside down— it means putting customer contact people at the top of the organization and top management at the bottom.
“This philosophical mind-shift reminds everyone in the organization that when it comes to implementation, leaders serve their people, who serve the customers. This change may seem minor, but it makes a major difference between who is responsible and who is responsive.”
The next big step, according to Ken is to align policies, practices, direction, and support people to remove barriers and impediments for people taking care of the customers. It is a high-investment approach that yields significant results and is designed to bring out the best in people.
“Servant leaders are constantly trying to find out what their people need to perform well and live according to their organization’s vision. In top organizations, leaders believe if they do a good job serving their people and showing them, they care, the employees will, in turn, practice that same philosophy with customers.”
The Biggest Barrier to Servant Leadership
In Blanchard’s experience, organizations face one of the most persistent problems of mental barriers; people who succeed as servant leaders are driven by self-interest, those without a motivation might face problems.
“As a leader, you must ask yourself why you lead. Is it to serve or to be served? Answering this question in a truthful way is so important. You can’t fake being a servant leader.” If leaders don’t psyche themselves the way it is meant to be, they might just not ever become servant leaders.
Managers who think they are the center and the universe will rotate around them are more likely covering-up their not-okay feelings, which is more like an ego problem. Ego generally manifests as fear or false pride. When people don’t feel good about themselves or have insecurities, they generally have two options: they can hide and hope nobody is noticing them or can overcompensate and go out and try to control the environment. In my opinion, “people who feel the need to control their environment are really just scared little kids inside.”
An Old Model for a New World of Work?
Blanchard explains that leaders with a servant heart thrive on developing people and helping them achieve their goals. They are consistent and are always trying to fond ways to help their people to perform well. Being a servant leader is not just any other management techniques but a way of life for those with servant hearts.
“It is much easier for people to see the importance and relevance of servant leadership today than it was back then”, says Blanchard.
Servant Leadership: The Power of Love, Not the Love of Power
Couple of years ago, Blanchard received a letter from a man in New Zealand with a statement that he believes is the summation of his leadership philosophy. He wrote-
“The man wrote that he felt I was in the business of teaching people the power of love rather than the love of power.”
Understanding the business need of a different leadership model, we need servant leadership advocates, who spread the word and make people understand that your job is to teach people the power of love rather than the love of power.