Serving on a Board – Part 3

Making a Case for Servant Leadership

We have covered the role of a body or group of leaders known as a board. And we have covered the role of the individual within that body. Now it is time for the secret sauce if there is such a thing. From my perspective, the secret sauce is servant leadership.

What is Servant Leadership?

While the idea of servant leadership goes back multiple millennia, the modern servant leadership movement was given voice by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 with the publication of his essay, The Servant as Leader. Greenleaf defined the servant-leader as follows:

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”

The more recent application of servant leadership to business and industry has taken the form of focusing on a set of behaviors and practices that turn the traditional “power leadership” model upside down. Rather than the followers working to serve the leader, the leader actually exists to serve the followers. Servant leadership is centered on a desire to serve and emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power. Its primary goal is to enhance individual growth, teamwork and overall organizational involvement and satisfaction.

Why Servant Leadership?

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Vision = “What” and Leadership = “How”

Visionary and Tactical Leadership

My own personal journey toward understanding various forms of leadership began many years ago. It began in a medium-sized church in Marietta, Georgia in 1983. I was 22 years of age and I was elected to the church board I was the youngest board member elected that year. 

Prior to that point, I had been an observer. And I had observed some incredible leaders. I would put my own father in that category. His leadership in many areas are an inspiration to me to this very day. But I have observed many different leaders in these past 35 years. I learned as much as I could from men like Bill Searcy, an entrepreneur and small business owner in the Atlanta metropolitan area. He owned a Firestone auto repair shop. I owned a piece of junk Chevy Celebrity that went through 4 sets of brakes in 2 and a half years. It was a “lemon” and I didn’t realize it. So, we were destined to spend time together. He taught me more about leadership than just about anyone else early in the early years of my leadership journey. I owe him, and some others like him, a great debt of gratitude.

I consider myself to be a keen observer. I am an observer of leaders. That kind of observation over the years has shown to me that there are two distinct skill sets that are common among those who would consider themselves to be leaders. There are those that “see” what needs to happen. And there are those who “make” it happen.

Click here to read the rest of the article »

What Does a Leader Say?

Insight from a preschooler

What does Mimi always say?

That was the question that we asked our youngest grandchild as we were sitting around the dining room table yesterday afternoon. For those of you who know some of my parenting rules, you will know that I do not like asking a question to which I don’t already know the answer to, or to which I can’t control the answer. And, asking a young child to repeat what his impression is regarding what his grandmother always says was risky. His answer, much to our delight was this: “Jax, do you want Mimi to get you something to eat?”

We went around the table and asked each of our grandchildren the same question about what their individual parents or we the grandparents are always saying to them. Some of the responses were hysterically funny. Some of them tweaked our hearts a little bit. It tweaked a little because when they were asked for something that they hear from our mouths on a regular basis, not everything was as nurturing as Mimi fixing them a little snack of comfort food.

What does that have to do with leadership?

As leaders, we have developed a repertoire of words and statements that we use on a frequent basis. They are our “go to” statements and answers. They are second nature to us and require little if any thought before we respond. 

In a sense, they paint an emotional picture of our leadership. Whenever someone thinks of our leadership style and our leadership efforts, certain words or statements jump to the forefront of their mind just as they did for our three grandchildren. Those words define us. They do so because they are the first words that pop into our brains when someone says our name.

Are you feeling a little “tweaked?”

Boy, I am! What do my followers hear me say all the time? Is it uplifting? Is it encouraging? Is it helpful? Is it instructive? Or, is it snarky, belittling, negative, or childish? 

Click here to read the rest of the article »

What Does Leadership Sound Like?

Is there a leadership “sound”?

Wow! The feedback that I received from so many of you about the “look” of leadership was amazing. And, even if I had not already planned today’s article as a follow-up, it would be an imperative in light of the interest in the “leadership look.” So, let’s consider if there is a “sound” associated with great leadership.

Leadership has a voice

The site publishing this week’s article is aptly named in my opinion. For, there is indeed a leadership “voice.” Several years ago I wrote an article on whether or not leadership was a quiet or loud activity. The genesis of thought for the article spans from my firstborn’s kindergarten teacher in 1990. If you are interested in that background thought, here is a link to that article.

Communication is the “voice” of leadership

Communication is the voice of leadership. In fact,

Click here to read the rest of the article »

What Does Leadership Look Like?

Is there a leadership “look”?

 

Have you ever done a Google image search for the word “leader?” If you have, you’ve probably noticed a lot of mountain climbing, pointing, flag carrying, and little stick figures that look more like game tokens than they look like leaders. Throw in a person speaking in a microphone or megaphone to a crowd or to a group seated around a conference table and add a few more stick figures where all of them except for one are the same color and that is what leadership looks like. At least that is what Google Images thinks it looks like. Apparently, standing out is a prerequisite.

But, I am not sure I get a clear picture of what a leader looks like based on an image search. Actually, I am pretty sure that I don’t. But it is an interesting exercise nonetheless.

Leadership is a lot like beauty

It is in the eye of the beholder. Or, better stated, it cannot be judged objectively. Rather, it is quite subjective. What one person deems beautiful or admirable may not appeal to another in the least. And when push comes to shove, what we really find attractive may be different than what we have always said.

All through my adolescent years, I would have said that I find petite, dark-haired females the most attractive. Yet, I married a tall Nordic, blue-eyed blond. And I am really glad that I did!

Is leadership like that?

Can we envisage a new leadership look?

Perhaps it is time to reconsider how leadership looks and turn away from the “alpha male” stereotypes and look more at leadership qualities and not weigh physical qualities quite as much. The alternative is to dismiss without much thought the individuals that don’t fit our perception of what a leader looks like. In so doing we will overlook some incredible leaders.

What should we be looking for?

Click here to read the rest of the article »

#LeadershipStrong in 2018

Some Incredible Leadership Observations from Hurricane Harvey in 2017

For any who live in or around Houston, TX and the south Texas region, you will be aware that #HoustonStrong became the hashtag that dominated social media in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. It came to represent the strength and resilience of folks of the greater Houston metropolitan area.

Texans are made of the same stuff that legends are made of. And Houstonians often feel that they are the caretakers of those legends. And there were some new legends that were created throughout the days of rain and the many days of rescue and recovery that followed.

For a few weeks that started in mid-August of this past year and lasted until the National Weather Service downgraded the hurricane on September 3, 2017, I had a front row seat for some inspiring leadership. Not that I was only an observer. Not at all. But, I watched some folks step up and lead in ways that you may not otherwise see without such a huge humanitarian crisis or catastrophic weather event that unleashes trillions and trillions of gallons of water on your city.

To put this storm in perspective you need to consider just a few numbers. In just a four-day period, many areas in and around Houston received more than 40 inches of rain as the storm system slowly meandered over our city and over southeastern Texas, causing catastrophic flooding. The highest recorded accumulation of 60.58 inches was not far from where my son, his wife, and their young son live. Hurricane Harvey was the wettest tropical storm on record in the United States. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues.

It is against that backdrop that leadership took center stage. #HoustonStrong gave us #LeadershipStrong. And leadership talent was on display for all to see if you were looking for it. I was looking for it and I was not disappointed.

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Strength vs. Toughness

If you could only have one, which one would you choose?

Coaching young leaders, and coaching those who aspire to lead, gives me incredible opportunities to take a look at all of the combinations of skills and traits that make up a great leader. Recently, I was in a conversation with a young leader who has a fair amount of both. But I was postulating on the evidence that would suggest that most leaders are either strong or tough. But, usually not both.

What is the difference between strength and toughness?

Never go to the internet with a question like that unless you want a college level physics explanation! However, my questions on this topic are not addressed from a metallurgical perspective. These two terms, when combined, are most often mentioned in metallurgical discussions on toughness, elasticity, and fracturing.

My thoughts are more physiological. Consider for a moment the strength of the powerlifter and the toughness of the hockey player. Both are incredibly skilled in their particular athletic endeavor. Yet, they are built very differently and could not compete on equal footing if either of them were to cross over into the other’s athletic domain. Perhaps that is the very observation that has sparked the global “CrossFit” craze. But, I digress.

The Value of Strength

Strength is a great attribute to possess. More than one young man has flexed a muscle when a pretty young lady walked by. Strength is universally valued and has applicability to many aspects of life. But go back to the example I used to represent strength. It was a powerlifter. When I think of strength, I am reminded of Vasily Alekseyev, the Olympian from the former U.S.S.R. He was the holder of 80 world records and the April 14, 1975 cover of Sports Illustrated proclaimed him the “World’s Strongest Man.” He weighed over 350 pounds.

I watched him in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics many times walk up to a steel bar with hundreds of pounds of iron plates on each end. He would lean over, get a grip, and then lift it over his head for about a second. He would then drop it and nod to the judges and walk off the stage. In all likelihood it would be a new world or Olympic record. But could he have run a marathon or played ice hockey at an Olympic level? Probably not.

The Value of Toughness

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Accountability ≠ “Gotcha!”

Do we even know what “accountability” looks like?

Once again I want to remind you of my deep love for great pithy quotes. And today is no exception. In fact, it hit me right between the proverbial eyes. Are you ready? Here it is:

“Hypocrisy exists in the space between language and action.”
— Henry J. Evans

I can’t guarantee that is the right attribution for that quote. But, his name seems to be associated with it in the most contexts in which I see it. If anyone has any information to the contrary regarding the correct attribution, I want to be accountable for its accuracy and give credit to the originator.

Blaming and Finger Pointing

My fear as I write this article is that we are so far removed from a culture of accountability that we don’t even know what accountability looks like anymore. Whenever we do experience something that someone claims to be “accountability” it feels more like “blame” and “finger pointing” than anything else. So let me state emphatically that accountability does not equal a great big gotcha when something goes wrong. It is quite different and begins way upstream of whatever incident or accident has just occurred. But it should point out the space between language and action.

Let’s Move Upstream

Let’s agree right now that you can’t inject accountability into a process or a project in mid-stream. At least, you can’t do it without a lot of wear and tear on all parties concerned. So, what do you do? You build it into the next project or the next process or the next planning and execution event. You go upstream.

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Principles of Intentional Mentoring 

4 Things That Must Be Considered

There are some genuine considerations for the would-be protégé. In fact, there are four that I would have you consider today.

We need to identify a leader that is worthy of following.

It is an indictment of our culture, and maybe even our own judgment sometimes, that we would need to be reminded of this consideration. Not every leader is worthy of following. We must understand that consideration from both the leader’s and from the follower’s perspective. As a follower, I must find a leader that is worthy to follow and whose successes are not compromised by their ethics or methods. As a leader, I must always be diligent to be “worthy” to be followed.

We must learn how they lead.

Is there some “secret sauce?” Usually, there is not. It is just a lot of hard work and some careful application of emotional intelligence concepts. But, as a protégé, they will be asking: “What is the secret to your success as a leader?” So, as a leader, ask yourself the following questions: What makes you worthy to be followed? And what are you doing specifically that makes you “successful” as a leader?

What makes one leader successful will not always work in another place and setting. That is why I am stressing that it is important to learn how they lead. It is the “how” that will be filled with those traits and characteristics that will be the earmarks of an Emotionally Agile Leader.

Click here to read the rest of the article »

Sticks and Stones 

What I “think” about it really matters

How many of you remember growing up and playing on the playground? What did you say when someone said something mean or hurtful to you? Maybe you said what many children have said when you repeated a little saying.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Oh, how I wish that were true. As we have gotten older, we have realized that words hurt more than the sticks and the stones. In fact, I heard a person say one time that “it is not what you think about me or even say about me that hurts me. It is what I think about what you think about me or say about me that hurts me.” What they are saying is that it is my perception about something that drives my behaviors.

What does this have to do with leadership?

I am working on some “appendix material” for my upcoming book. And I am working on a leadership development resource for 1-on-1 mentoring. I am working on the issue of self-awareness or self-perception. My focus for that section is on how we perceive ourselves, how others perceive us, and how we perceive that others perceive us. This can almost become a carnival house of mirrors scenario where that loop can become almost infinite. So, let’s not go that far.

Psychologists often use words like self-perception, other perception, and meta-perception. They indicate that we can be good or bad at each the of perception. I love alliteration. It helps me cement a concept in my mind. So, I am modifying their words to help me get a better grip on them and their leadership implications. So, I will use Self-Perception, Social-Perception, and Circular-Perception.

Self-Perception is simply a matter of how you see yourself. Our role as leadership mentors is to help our protégés to help them really see themselves as they are. And not just as they perceive themselves or even as others perceive them to be. Let’s face it. Very few of us are “black belts” at self-awareness. mentors must never come across as having become too much of an expert in this regard.

Click here to read the rest of the article »