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SERVANT LEADERSHIP SETS
PEOPLE UP FOR SUCCESS ALL
YEAR LONG
If you are a leader, the end of the year is an opportunity for you to celebrate and
thank everyone in your organization who, throughout the year, contributed to its
success.
However, encouragement and recognition shouldn’t be a once-a-year event—it
ought to be a leader’s constant mindset, according to Ken Blanchard, management
expert and coauthor of The New One Minute Manager® and Leading at a Higher
Level. In Blanchard’s opinion, the most effective leaders focus on serving the needs
of their people all year long.
Blanchard’s belief is that organizations run best when leaders at all levels see
themselves as servant leaders. As he explains, “The best leaders turn the
organizational pyramid upside down so that they are at the bottom of the structure,
serving their people who are at the top. The leaders provide support, remove
obstacles, and act as cheerleaders. They are there to serve their people—so that
their people can better serve their customers.”
Blanchard often gets puzzled looks from leaders when he first explains the concept
of servant leadership. “Leaders think I’m describing a religious movement or
advocating letting the inmates run the prison. What I’m really saying is that there
are two sides to running a business. The first is strategic—setting the vision and
direction. That’s the leadership part of servant leadership. Most leaders are familiar
and comfortable with this side.
“But once organizational strategies are set, leaders have a new role. Now their job
is operational—supporting the people who will bring the strategy to life. This means
sitting down with direct reports, explaining the plan, identifying obstacles, and
pulling together the resources needed to get the job done. That’s the servant part of
servant leadership.”
The good news is that leaders at all levels can serve their direct reports at an
individual, team, or department level. Blanchard explains the step-by step process.
1. Get clear on goals. “All good performance begins with clear goals. Make sure
that individual, team, department, and organizational goals are clear and
written down so that they can be seen, communicated, and referred to
frequently. Goals are too often unclear, poorly communicated, not written
down, or never referred to until performance review. “
2. Discuss competence and commitment. “Managers must sit down with their
teams to discuss what’s required to achieve each goal. In Situational
Leadership® II we teach that people approach each new task or goal from one
of four development levels: the Enthusiastic Beginner, where an individual is
excited but inexperienced at the task; the Disillusioned Learner, where an
individual becomes discouraged; the Capable but Cautious Performer, where
an individual has some experience but still needs occasional support; or the
Self-Reliant Achiever, where an individual has a track record of success. It
takes time to make this diagnosis at the beginning of a task or when setting a
goal, but it will save time in the long run by avoiding misunderstandings,
motivation issues, and rework.”
3. Match your leadership style. “Depending on a person’s development level
on a specific task or goal, the leader provides a matching leadership style—
either Directing, Coaching, Supporting, or Delegating. The objective is to
provide the direct report with the correct amount of direction and support to get
the job done while avoiding over-supervision or under-supervision. This is the
essence of servant leadership. The focus is on helping direct reports achieve
their goals.”
Blanchard encourages leaders to practice a servant leadership mindset with direct
reports every day, not just at year end. “Your job as a leader is to help your people
succeed. Set clear goals with them, diagnose their development level on each goal,
and then provide them with the direction and support they need to achieve those
goals. It’s the best way to serve your people—not just now, but throughout the
year.”
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