Many organizations identify servant leadership as a core value and a key trait in their executives. On the other hand, many others do not, which perpetuates leadership cultures that are self-centered and non-sacrificial. The difference in culture between a team focused on servant leadership and one that is not is profound.
Without question, motive matters in leadership. Teams see it, hear it, feel it and live with its natural consequences. We all can tell hundreds of stories about the impact of a leader’s mindset, intentions and actions on our own lives–some good, some bad.
In his book, “The Motive,” Patrick Lencioni calls out leaders through an important reminder. “If we can restore the collective attitude that leadership is meant to be a joyfully difficult and selfless responsibility, I am convinced that we will see companies become more successful, employees more engaged and fulfilled and society more hopeful.”
There are two primary motives from which leaders lead–responsibility (we) or reward (me).
1. The Responsibility-Centered Leader:
Responsibility-centered leaders see the world through the lens of “team”, understanding that leadership requires assuming the role of servant and empowering others to thrive. These leaders push their team members to produce results, but also to add value to the team, contribute well and continuously grow. These teams foster togetherness and unity.
2. The Reward-Centered Leader:
Reward-centered leaders view leadership as a means to get what the leader most desires. They are primarily focused on themselves and take action only when it is in their own best interest. These leaders make decisions for the wrong reasons and lead from a posture that they are the most important person on their teams. They breed politicking, siloing and dissension within their teams.
To lead from a posture of responsibility instead of reward, it’s critical to focus on these five things:
1. Develop your leadership team
Recognize and invest in building a cohesive team that trusts one another, engages in healthy conflict, operates from clarity, holds each other accountable and achieves team results.
2. Manage your leadership team
Prevent confusion and misalignment by ensuring clear direction and priorities are in place. Set clear expectations and inspect what is expected, but do not micro-manage.
3. Have difficult conversations
Beware of the negative effects of avoiding conflict while attempting to preserve harmony. Clinging to artificial harmony is equally as destructive as being aggressive. Avoiding perceived situational conflict often allows basic issues to turn into people issues, which become much more complex and difficult to solve.
4. Hold great meetings
As a leader’s primary platform, meetings should be a meeting, not just a conversation. The best meetings involve healthy debate, commitment clarity, and clear action steps. Team members should be clear about what was discussed and decided, as well as understand what not to say outside of the meeting and know the game plan of what to say to their respective team members.
5. Communication, then over-communication
Every leader’s job is to be the Chief Reminding Officer (CRO). Focus on over-communicating to keep clarity high, confusion low and everybody moving forward in the same direction.
Talk is cheap! What we do speaks so loudly people won’t hear what we say.
The best way to build a team of responsibility-centered leaders is to be one yourself. When you model servant leadership, you will experience significant impact and the story of your leadership team’s sustainable success will write itself.