Why the Servant Leader is so Hard to Find

February 10, 2007

Servant leadership seems to be all the rage these days. Every company wants servant leaders, but few seem to know much about servant leadership. They talk the talk, but walking the walk is much harder. That’s because…Servant leadership is based on humility.

Most people, if they really knew anything about humility, wouldn’t like it. That’s why so few people are humble. Humility involves dying to oneself — sacrificing oneself to a higher good or yielding to legitimate authority…They walk the talk — and inspire others to raise their game. That’s why they’re so sought after.

But here’s the paradox of humility: If you think you have it, you don’t. Imagine someone bragging about how humble they are. That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? You can never be too humble…True humility is counter-cultural, which is why it’s so rare. In fact, if you want to be a truly counter-cultural rebel, then rebel against your own vanity. Master yourself.

Now, I can’t tell you how to gain humility. Usually one has to fail (and fail spectacularly) before one discovers how much one needs others. But barring that, here are some signs that you lack humility:
· Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say.
· Always wanting to get your own way.
· Arguing when you are not right (or when you are right, insisting stubbornly or with bad manners).
· Giving your opinion without being asked for it (when charity does not demand you to do so).
· Despising the point of view of others.
· Not being aware that all of the gifts that you have are on loan from God.
· Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation.
· Speaking badly about yourself so that others may form a good opinion of you or contradict you.
· Making excuses when rebuked.
· Hiding your faults from others so that they may not lose a good opinion of you.
· Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you.
· Refusing to carry out menial tasks.
· Being ashamed of not having certain possessions.

I could go on but I won’t. You get the idea. Zig Zigler has long said that you can have anything you want in life as long as you make sure that others get what they want first. That’s a hard truth to recognize — and an even harder truth to live.

Harry Joiner
The Core of Servant Leadership
Marketing Profs: Daily Fix


The Incomplete Leader

February 10, 2007

Today’s top executives are expected to do everything right, from coming up with solutions to unfathomably complex problems to having the charisma and prescience to rally stakeholders around a perfect vision of the future. But no one leader can be all things to all people. It’s time to end the myth of the complete leader, say the authors. Those at the top must come to understand their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Only by embracing the ways in which they are incomplete can leaders fill in the gaps in their knowledge with others’ skills. The incomplete leader has the confidence and humility to recognize unique talents and perspectives throughout the organization–and to let those qualities shine. The authors’ study of leadership over the past six years has led them to develop a framework of distributed leadership that consists of four capabilities: sensemaking, relating, “visioning,” and inventing. Sensemaking involves understanding and mapping the context in which a company and its people operate. A leader skilled in this area can quickly identify the complexities of a given situation and explain them to others. The second capability, relating, means being able to build trusting relationships with others through inquiring, advocating, and connecting. Visioning, the third capability, means coming up with a compelling image of the future. It is a collaborative process that articulates what the members of an organization want to create. Finally, inventing involves developing new ways to bring that vision to life. Rarely will a single person be skilled in all four areas. That’s why it’s critical that leaders find others who can offset their limitations and complement their strengths. Those who don’t will not only bear the burden of leadership alone but will find themselves at the helm of an unbalanced ship.

Deborah Ancona, Thomas W. Malone, Wanda J. Orlikowski, Peter M. Senge,
In Praise of the Incomplete Leader
Harvard Business Review