HAVE YOU EVER read a book that so overwhelmingly captured your heart you didn’t want it to end? I’ve heard that sort of wailing from my friends who read 800 page novels and feel cheated when the story ends, but would they have the same lament when reaching the final page of a non-fiction, business book? That’s how I felt when reading page 154 of The Serving Leader. Really? I wanted to continue absorbing more about maturity and engagement in leadership through the characters of Mike Wilson, his father Robert Wilson, a number of business owners, consultants, teachers, administrators, engineers, students and even an Admiral in the Navy. Written in the style of a novel, this book teaches like a textbook that’s so interesting you can’t put it down. Each chapter adds precept upon precept, like building blocks which perfectly define and illustrate the Serving Leader. If highlighting is any indicator of the importance of what can be learned from this volume, this is a masterpiece. You should see all the yellow lines and margin notes. Condensing the indispensable content of The Serving Leader will be a challenge.
This book made an impact from the beginning but before sharing the early principles of the book this thought from a later chapter really resonated with me. This foundation of the Serving Leader was shared in the chapter titled, Action: Run to Greater Purpose.
People want to make a difference. They want to feel like they belong to community that has a greater purpose. The first action that marks the Serving Leader is that they run to great purpose. Purpose is the foundation. Everything else follows. Of the team portrayed throughout the story line Mike Wilson observes the principles that exemplify the Serving Leader. Great people want to be on this team. Morale and courage come from a deep sense of purpose that pulls everything into focus. Making a difference for others is the point of their lives. Running to that great purpose gives them all they need to be the best they can be.
The Serving Leader is more than theory. It’s action. Each chapter title, in fact, starts with the directive, Action. This is because “Serving Leaders are in the trenches with their teams, businesses, and neighborhoods doing what others are just writing about.”
We’ve seen the use of the inverted pyramid so you can picture it in your mind. In this case, the upended pyramid is a representation of the realization that “Serving Leaders are living paradoxes. They create results by doing counterintuitive things.” We learn about those paradoxes as we read each of the stories told by Mike.
Action: Upend the Pyramid
Through his interaction with Aslan, who started an after school tutoring program, Mike learned about the efforts that go into a people-development engine. This program was building a future for students through job training. Imagine the transformation in a neighborhood when this tutoring program proved successful. It was to the credit of all involved in living by the principles of people first.
[bctt tweet=”You qualify to be first by putting other people first.” username=”bizmastersglobal”]
[bctt tweet=”You’re in charge principally to charge up others.” username=”bizmastersglobal”]
Action: Raise the Bar
The BioWorks organization is innovative, highly scientific, and committed to next-generation sustainable technologies, but its competitive edge comes from practicing Serving Leadership at its core. When individuals are selected for interviews they are assessed against key competencies and values predictive of success. The hiring process includes team interviews where the candidate’s values and attitude toward team work can be perceived. “First it’s being selective in choosing leaders you’re going to work with. Second, it’s about continually raising the expectations for performance. Within the organization, the bar is set high for standards and performance. If expectations aren’t met the whole team and organization are affected. BioWorks goes into heavy coaching mode when any team member has difficulty with their responsibilities. “The best way to reach down to someone is to give them a challenging reason to reach up.” If coaching doesn’t result in improvement, the Serving Leader helps them find employment that is better aligned. Selecting the right people then helping them become successful is a principle of the Serving Leader.
[bctt tweet=”To serve the many, you first serve the few.” username=”bizmastersglobal”]
[bctt tweet=”The best reach-down is a challenging reach-up.” username=”bizmastersglobal”]
Action: Blaze the Trail
At this point you might be wondering is the Learning Leader a philosophy or even an enigma. This chapter will clear it up for you. Serving Leaders are the key to effective leadership with lasting results because of their resolute commitment to their responsibilities. “Serving Leaders teach others the knowledge, skills, and strategies they need to succeed. They remove obstacles that get in the way of progress.” Blazing trails starts with teaching. Serving Leaders teach everything they know about strategy, tools, models and business to the degree that they are no longer needed – at least for this group of people. To increase your value, give away your knowledge.
[bctt tweet=”To protect your value, you must give it all away.” username=”bizmastersglobal”]
[bctt tweet=”Your biggest obstacle is the one that hinders someone else.” username=”bizmastersglobal”]
Action: Build on Strength
It has to be personal. This chapter is all about how it takes community and connectedness to be great. Individuals have strengths just as they have weaknesses. We hear so often, if you have a weakness, work on it. What if instead, we capitalized on our strengths and found others in our organizations, associations, friendships, communities to use their strengths that we don’t have. “Isolated greatness isn’t greatness at all.” Instead of focusing so much energy in improving areas of weakness, play to your strengths. This was one of my favorite stories in the book. Robert, Mike’s dad took him to a location that Mike described as the most miserable 25 blocks of a city he’d ever seen. Robert didn’t see it that way at all. “We’re at the heart of our city’s best hope.” How could they be looking at the same plot of ground and interpret it so differently? The Serving Leader says, “You need new eyes to see what’s here, not what’s not. Build on strength.” This might be a hard concept to grasp without having the text to read, but this is all about seeing what could be when the community connects and builds on the strengths of each other. The Serving Leader recognizes the significance of working together to help others find their gifts and passions, then mobilizing them to strategically use them in their communities, businesses, and churches. Even families reap the benefits of finding and using strengths.
[bctt tweet=”To address your weaknesses, focus on your strengths.” username=”bizmastersglobal”]
[bctt tweet=”You can’t become the best unless others do too.” username=”bizmastersglobal”]
Action: Run to Create Purpose
We all need to be assured of our purpose. If we are going to give our life to something, we want to know it has meaning and that our actions will make a difference. It’s how we are wired. Rock, who was the Admiral in the Navy, said something so meaningful and descriptive of the Serving Leader, I’m quoting verbatim. “Bring great purpose to the table, turn your leadership into service to your workers, hold high expectations, make sure your team has what it needs in training and resources and clear running ground, and maximize the strengths you have. Take these actions, and you’ll get real acceleration and impact. It’s how we’ve been designed to function best.”
The Serving Leader was first written in 2003 when the idea of leadership from a servant’s heart was still a new concept, maybe even considered unlikely. Today, 2016, the authors have updated the text to provide broader insight and acute vision for the future of Serving Leaders. It’s a discipline and precept that will grow with the times as leaders grow in maturity for the task of guiding, mentoring, coaching, and teaching others. As the authors postulate, “The Serving Leader provides a framework for the leadership growth we must do on the outside and we need a framework that helps us with the inside work, the growing-up work.” Change always starts with the heart. Leaders must grow their capacity and guard their intentions and motives of ego, character and maturity.
Failure is going to happen. Leaders who respond with denial or blaming or deception are creating destruction and a culture of mistrust. Serving Leaders recognize the gift of failure as an opportunity to learn, ask for help, pull others into the journey, and transform the failure to ultimate success.
[bctt tweet=”Serving Leaders treasure relationships at work and at home. ” username=”bizmastersglobal”]
Broken relationships at home or work need to be repaired. “Better business performance can be gained right alongside better life performance.”
There is so much more to this book than what could be covered adequately in a short summary. If you are searching for a way to up your game as a leader, become a Serving Leader. This book will inspire you to be a Trailblazer. You can serve a greater purpose. You can make a difference.