Tag Archives | Servant leadership

The Purpose of Leadership

Businessman Making Presentation To Office ColleaguesWhat is the leader’s reason for being? I see quotes and posts from all corners of the globe on this topic.

I’ve been lucky enough over the years to engage a number of leadership thinkers on this idea. The range of responses is wide!

Some suggest that the purpose of leadership is to deliver results through others. Others see the leader’s purpose as developing more leaders. Even others see the leader’s primary responsibility is to make the vision come to fruition.

I believe that effective leaders do all these things and more.

What is missing for me in most of these responses, though, is the answer to this vital question: “To what end?” Who or what is changed when “leadership” happens? Who is being served when “leadership” efforts are applied?

If the outcomes of leadership efforts primarily serve the leader (in the form of bonuses, credit, promotions, etc.), others enjoy fewer (or no) benefits from those efforts.

If leadership activities discount or erode employee contributions or value, that inhibits employee engagement. Team members who feel discounted or taken advantage of won’t serve customers kindly or respectfully, nor will they willingly apply their skills in service to team or company strategies and goals.

In 25 years of consulting with leaders, I’ve never observed self-serving leaders positively impact my “big three” – employee engagement, customer service, or results and profits. They might get short term results, but over the long term, each of the big three are negatively impacted.

Can a single, all-encompassing purpose statement for leadership be crafted? Here’s my best thinking at this point in time.

In The Culture Engine, I present a template for creating an effective organizational purpose statement. Let’s refine that template for leaders. We need a succinct declaration that explains what effective leaders do, for whom, and “to what end” – how employees and customers are positively served by leadership efforts.

What do effective leaders do? They set performance targets. They demand cooperative interaction. They validate efforts. They celebrate accomplishments and team work. They listen and learn. They refine policies and procedures to make employees’ jobs easier. They hold themselves and all others accountable for performance and values expectations.

Whom do effective leaders serve? Their primary customers are their team members. Their secondary customers are those who purchase the team’s (or company’s) products and services.

To what end do effective leaders serve? They inspire aligned contributions by all team members in a trusting, respectful work environment.

By combining these answers into a crisp statement, we arrive at this purpose of leadership:

“Effective leaders set high standards for performance and values, validate efforts and contributions, and ensure cooperative interaction and performance in a trusting, respectful work environment.”

Does this statement align with how your most effective leaders behaved? What is my leadership purpose statement missing? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Monkey Business – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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The music heard on my podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Authenticity Factor

Keep it real concept.To what degree are you genuine and authentic with your work colleagues – bosses, peers, and team members – in daily interactions?

Dictionary.com defines authentic as “not false or copied; genuine; real.”

If we ponder how our great bosses behaved with us, it is extremely likely that they were real. They demonstrated authentic care and service to us.

They interacted with no hidden agendas. There was no smoke and mirrors; there was simply honest discussion, transparent decision-making, and in-depth engagement.

Our great bosses kept their commitments, delivering on their promises. If they were unable to keep their commitments, they told us why, well in advance of the deadline. They also explained how they were trying to get back on track, as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, leaders that demonstrate authentic care are not the norm. For example, TinyHR’s 2014 engagement and culture survey found that 49% of employees are not satisfied with their direct supervisor.

In my work with clients around the globe, I hear about team member’s frustrations with their leaders all the time. These frustrations are often founded on the leader’s lack of consistent authenticity. Employees tell me, “I don’t know which boss is going to show up each day – Jekyll or Hyde.” Or “She says one thing then turns around and does the exact opposite. We see it every day.”

If leaders don’t demonstrate behavioral integrity – keeping their promises and modeling the organization’s espoused values – they erode team members’ commitment and contribution. Tony Simons’ excellent book, The Integrity Dividend, found that employee’s commitment goes up with observed behavioral integrity from their leaders. That causes employees to apply discretionary energy in service to their organization’s customers and goals.

The benefit? For one hotel chain, $250,000 annual profit growth for every 1/4 point gain on a 10 point scale!

There is another benefit to the leader’s authenticity. When leaders demonstrate authentic care, team members are much more likely to demonstrate authentic care with each other.

The coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich, is a player’s coach – team members love to play for him. He’s authentic and genuine. One way his genuineness plays out is that Popovich often devotes a portion of team meetings to the culture and history of team members.

Last June, in the midst of preparations for the championship series with the Miami Heat, Popovich opened a meeting by leading a team discussion about Mabo Day. Point guard Patty Mills – an indigenous Australian native – was surprised and honored by the coach’s actions.

Popovich believes that knowing one another’s stories off the court binds team members together on the court. “It builds camaraderie. They feel connected and engaged and do better work.”

Authenticity matters. Genuine care matters. Be real, be honest, be available, be present. Only then can you build positive relationships, serve others consistently, and inspire aligned behavior and contribution.

How did your great bosses demonstrate authentic care? How well do you know your colleagues’ history and stories? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Want hands-on guidance for boosting productivity while reducing drama at work? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, meets one-morning-a-month starting in April.

Photo © creative soul – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What I Do and Why

Dollarphotoclub_77730279a-2I’m a rational thinker. There are times it helps me serve others well. And, there are times when it becomes a hurdle to helping others truly understand what I do!

When I’m not able to clearly and simply describe what I do, that’s not a good thing.

For example, when people ask me what I do, I typically outline my culture change process. I describe the logical phases of how I help leaders create and manage to an organizational constitution – and what the benefits are to them as leaders, to their team, to their customers, etc.

When I’m done explaining what I do, I am rather pleased with myself. I’m convinced that I am being clear and concise. The reality is that I’m not being clear, at all.

My response actually inhibits others’ understanding, because my answer assumes they know a LOT about team dynamics, servant leadership, and the powerful impact of team culture. Those are unfair assumptions on my part!

I needed guidance to craft a clear, pure description of what I do and why I do it. That description needs to reflect the beneficial impact I have on clients.

That description needs to stand alone, without the requirement of background knowledge to “interpret” what I’m saying and what I mean.

I’m grateful to David Greer and Mark Deterding for helping me reach this clarity. They are outstanding coaches who didn’t let me off the hook when I kept returning to my comfortable process description.

Here’s my current thinking on my value proposition.

I get people to embrace a better way of living, leading, and serving.

I help people transform from a task-driven, competitive existence to a purpose-driven, values-aligned existence.

I accomplish these beneficial impacts by walking beside each person I counsel, first guiding their understanding of this better way, then guiding their embracing of this better way, in every interaction with family, colleagues, neighbors, and strangers.

When a client internalizes this better way, he or she confidently navigates the challenges, temptations, and opportunities that arise daily at work, at home, and in their community.

My strongest contribution to others is my ability to enable that internalization.

This description of my value proposition feels good and feels right to me. I know I’ll continue to wordsmith it – but the core of it feels right.

How do you describe what you do and why you do it? How clear and concise is your description of your beneficial impact on people every day? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Want hands-on guidance for boosting productivity while reducing drama at work? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, meets one-morning-a-month starting in March.

Photo © ra2 studio – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Are you one of the top 1% of leaders?

Silhouette of a man on a mountain top on fiery orange backgroundThe top 1% of anything is pretty impressive. To be ranked in that rarefied air means one has invested and IS investing time, energy, and passion into that avenue.

If you were ill, wouldn’t you want to be treated by the best of the best doctors? If you were putting together a professional sports team, wouldn’t you want as many of the best of the best players on your roster, with the skills needed and with impeccable character?

Let’s take a look at a real, live example. Tamara McCleary is ranked in the top 1% of social media influencers by multiple sources. Tamara is a speaker, author, and business expert.

It’s not her expertise as a thought leader, speaker, or author that makes her such an effective social media player. It is her dedication to creating and maintaining relationships, online and in real life, every day, that boosts her influence.

Her recent post on social currency outlines her life philosophy. Tamara believes that “engagement is key.” She builds real relationships with her followers and who she follows. She monitors reliable data to track how well she is engaging every day with her online community.

She invests the time, energy, and passion because she legitimately cares about others. Members of her online and offline communities matter to her, deeply. She’s constantly checking to see whether her plans, decisions, and actions build relationships effectively NOW – and she refines those actions if they don’t.

Let’s apply Tamara’s practices – and positive results – to influencing others in the workplace.

I post the proven practices of #GreatBosses daily on my social media platforms. These quotes generate frequent shares as well as frequent comments. And, a number of those comments are not complimentary of respondent’s current bosses!

People boldly state “My boss doesn’t do this – I wish he did!” and “I’ve never had a boss that did this! I don’t believe #GreatBosses actually exist!”

Leaders can increase their positive influence, improve relationships, and boost employee engagement, service, and results if they embrace some of Tamara’s practices.

First, invest the time. Pay attention to more than just results. Connect with people at all levels in your organization every day. Learn their names and their passions. Learn what gets in their way of cooperative teamwork and top performance. Act to reduce those frustrations.

Second, get the data. Don’t just monitor performance metrics – monitor data that indicates how happy employees are working in your organization. You have some reliable data, like turnover, exit interviews, service levels, and more. You may need to measure other satisfaction metrics, like the degree of trust, frequency of proactive problem solving, etc.

Third, evaluate progress of employee engagement, service, and results. As you embrace proactive relationship management, pay close attention to the “big three” – engagement, service, and results. If you’re not seeing upticks in these after four weeks, do what Tamara does. Refine your practices, then monitor the positive impact. Keep those practices that help.

How great are your bosses today? Which of these practices will you embrace to increase the quality of relationships and employee engagement? Share your comments and insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google +.

How healthy is your team or company’s culture? Don’t guess – get the data with my online Culture Effectiveness Assessment.

Want hands-on guidance for building an engaging, inspiring workplace? Join me in Denver for my Culture Leadership Roundtable. This series, based on my book, The Culture Engine, meets one-morning-a-month starting in March.

Photo © es0lex – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © 2005 Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Leader’s Influence

4752463128_679877aa3f_zA recent 24/7 Wall Street article shared the top six-figure jobs in the US. Surprising (to me), six of the ten entries were managers of people. Managing people is a big responsibility, with a huge impact on team performance and team member engagement.

Leaders of others have either a positive or negative impact on team member productivity and engagement. A leader’s impact is rarely neutral! My best boss, Jerry Nutter, used to say, “A leader either helps, hinders, or hurts.”

The 24/7 Wall Street report indicates that people managers are paid well. Is the investment in people managers paying off for US companies? Let’s look at two factors – productivity and engagement.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that productivity growth in the US has declined by more than half since 2011. Historically (since 1948), annual US productivity grew at a 2.5% rate. Since 2011, that rate has fallen to only 1.1%.

The article points out a variety of contributing factors. One significant takeaway from this data is that people managers are not inspiring greater productivity in the US workforce.

On the engagement front, Blessing White’s 2013 Employee Engagement Research Report found that US engagement grew from 33% in 2011 to 40% in 2012. That’s very good news. However, it means that 60% of employees are not engaged. Team members do not believe their current work environment treats them with trust, dignity, and respect.

This data leads us to an undeniable conclusion: many well-paid people managers have a less-than-stellar impact on team member productivity and engagement.

How can leaders shift this tide? My research and experience tells me that leaders need to reframe their role and responsibilities as that of servant leaders. Their entire “reason for being” is to help team members build the right skills, to help team members apply those skills in service to team goals and team customers, and to create a safe, inspiring work environment for everyone on the team.

Leaders must coach well, listen well, redirect when needed – and trust team members. Engaged, talented team members deserve the responsibility and authority to act independently, in the moment. Engaged team members that are learning needed skills aren’t ready for independent action – they need mentoring and guidance to build needed skills.

If leaders are able to reframe their role and responsibility as that of servant leaders, productivity will grow and engagement will grow.

Team members, customers, and company stakeholders will all benefit, together.

How have your best bosses created workplace trust, dignity, and respect? How have your servant leaders helped you grow and thrive at work? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get your free sample chapter here.

Photo used under Creative Commons from https://www.flickr.com/photos/infusionsoft/.

Subscribe!Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes.

The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.


Don’t miss any of Chris’ posts, podcasts, or updates – Subscribe Now!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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