Tag Archives: personal success

The Ten Characteristics of a Servant Leader

In 1970 Robert K Greenleaf first published his essay, The Servant as Leader. This essay catalysed a world-wide movement for Servant Leadership. I was fortunate to have been exposed to the essay and many other resources associated with Servant Leadership from 1997. As such I have educated my clients about the power of being a Servant Leader ever since.

Throughout the essay, Greenleaf references a set of characteristics that need to exist for a leader to be a true servant. In total there are ten characteristics and each of them are explained below.

An example of a company that practices Servant Leadership
An example of a company that practices Servant Leadership

Listening

True leadership starts with the ability to listen for understanding. This is different to listening for argument. When you listen for understanding you are genuinely interested in understanding where the other is coming from. This does not mean that you have to agree with their perspective, just that you are genuinely interested in understanding it. When you listen for argument, you are listening from the perspective of finding holes in another’s arguments so that you can shoot them down. You are right and they are wrong. Period. A Servant Leader works hard at developing their skills so that they can listen for understanding.

Empathy

Listening for understanding enables leaders to have an increased capacity to relate to those with whom they are interacting. While they might not completely understand the perspective of the people they are working with (there are times when it is not genuine to say I Understand when your life experience is so different from the person’s with whom you are speaking), a Servant Leader has empathy for them and considers the serious impact of their decisions on the people they serve.

Healing

Michele Hunt said that Leadership is a serious meddling in other people’s lives.

Servant Leaders need to be able to both heal themselves and the people they work with. Organisational life can create emotional hurt for people and leader’s need to have the ability to help people resolve their relationships with colleagues, customers and the organisation itself. Often healing is represented by the leader treating all the people they come into contact with in a respectful way. Too many employees have not been respected because of their position in the organisational hierarchy. A Servant Leader treats all people with the same level of respect irrespective of their role. In doing so a Servant Leader helps the people they serve become more whole themselves as they build respect for themselves.

Awareness

Each of the ten characteristics of a Servant Leader is interdependent. A Servant Leader is self-aware, aware of what is happening for the people they serve and aware of what is happening outside their organisation. Being aware does not guarantee a sense of peace for a Servant Leader. In fact it is the opposite. Awareness means that the leader is sharply awake and keenly disturbed at the same time. Through awareness the Servant Leader knows that the world is a not a perfect place but that it can always be improved.

Persuasion

The Servant Leader is able to persuade through genuine listening and dialogue. They use facts, the picture of the future they are creating with others and a clear and shared sense of purpose to help the people they serve to find and create the future they desire. Persuasion is not coercion. Positional authority is not the power that a Servant Leader uses to get their way. Instead a Servant Leader is able to influence those they serve through their genuine practice of the ten characteristics of a Servant Leader.

Conceptualisation

A Servant Leader is able to communicate what possible futures look like. They have the ability to see beyond the day-to-day realities of organisational life to the possible future that they and the people they are serving are striving to create. Most importantly this characteristic is not one where the future they describe is the one that they dreamed by themselves, rather it is the possible future that they are able to articulate on behalf of the collective view that emerges over time.

Foresight

Foresight is the ability to see multiple consequences of both action and inaction. A Servant Leader is acutely aware of the ripple effect of errors of omission. They understand that they have an ethical responsibility to take action when they have the freedom to take action, even if that action is difficult.

Stewardship

Organisations and institutions do not exist to make heroes of their leaders. Servant Leaders understand that they have a duty to serve their organisation so that it is in better hands for the next generation of leaders. The organisation and the institution are bigger than the leader. This mental model is essential if you wish to be a true Servant Leader.

Commitment to the Growth of People

A Servant Leader aims to have the people they serve become more autonomous or at the very least not to be worse off as a result of their leadership. They strive to help people to find and develop their talents and celebrate in their success, even when this may mean (at times) those people leave the organisation.

Building Community

A Servant Leader is acutely aware that humans require a sense of belonging to help maintain their mental well-being. To this end Servant Leaders work at bringing people together and fostering a sense of community and understand that building community is created one person, one-act at a time.

Servant Leadership is not confined to community, not-for-profit and government agencies. Quite the contrary. Many successful for profit organisations are explicit in their application of Servant Leadership. Three explicit examples include Vanguard, Southwest Airlines and TDIndustries.

If you would like to explore how Servant Leadership can be introduced to your organisation please contact me here.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Gary Ryan

The Ten Characteristics of a Servant Leader

In 1970 Robert K Greenleaf first published his essay, The Servant as Leader. This essay catalysed a world-wide movement for Servant Leadership. I was fortunate to have been exposed to the essay and many other resources associated with Servant Leadership from 1997. As such I have educated my clients about the power of being a Servant Leader ever since.

Throughout the essay, Greenleaf references a set of characteristics that need to exist for a leader to be a true servant. In total there are ten characteristics and each of them are explained below.

An example of a company that practices Servant Leadership
An example of a company that practices Servant Leadership

Listening

True leadership starts with the ability to listen for understanding. This is different to listening for argument. When you listen for understanding you are genuinely interested in understanding where the other is coming from. This does not mean that you have to agree with their perspective, just that you are genuinely interested in understanding it. When you listen for argument, you are listening from the perspective of finding holes in another’s arguments so that you can shoot them down. You are right and they are wrong. Period. A Servant Leader works hard at developing their skills so that they can listen for understanding.

Empathy

Listening for understanding enables leaders to have an increased capacity to relate to those with whom they are interacting. While they might not completely understand the perspective of the people they are working with (there are times when it is not genuine to say I Understand when your life experience is so different from the person’s with whom you are speaking), a Servant Leader has empathy for them and considers the serious impact of their decisions on the people they serve.

Healing

Michele Hunt said that Leadership is a serious meddling in other people’s lives.

Servant Leaders need to be able to both heal themselves and the people they work with. Organisational life can create emotional hurt for people and leader’s need to have the ability to help people resolve their relationships with colleagues, customers and the organisation itself. Often healing is represented by the leader treating all the people they come into contact with in a respectful way. Too many employees have not been respected because of their position in the organisational hierarchy. A Servant Leader treats all people with the same level of respect irrespective of their role. In doing so a Servant Leader helps the people they serve become more whole themselves as they build respect for themselves.

Awareness

Each of the ten characteristics of a Servant Leader is interdependent. A Servant Leader is self-aware, aware of what is happening for the people they serve and aware of what is happening outside their organisation. Being aware does not guarantee a sense of peace for a Servant Leader. In fact it is the opposite. Awareness means that the leader is sharply awake and keenly disturbed at the same time. Through awareness the Servant Leader knows that the world is a not a perfect place but that it can always be improved.

Persuasion

The Servant Leader is able to persuade through genuine listening and dialogue. They use facts, the picture of the future they are creating with others and a clear and shared sense of purpose to help the people they serve to find and create the future they desire. Persuasion is not coercion. Positional authority is not the power that a Servant Leader uses to get their way. Instead a Servant Leader is able to influence those they serve through their genuine practice of the ten characteristics of a Servant Leader.

Conceptualisation

A Servant Leader is able to communicate what possible futures look like. They have the ability to see beyond the day-to-day realities of organisational life to the possible future that they and the people they are serving are striving to create. Most importantly this characteristic is not one where the future they describe is the one that they dreamed by themselves, rather it is the possible future that they are able to articulate on behalf of the collective view that emerges over time.

Foresight

Foresight is the ability to see multiple consequences of both action and inaction. A Servant Leader is acutely aware of the ripple effect of errors of omission. They understand that they have an ethical responsibility to take action when they have the freedom to take action, even if that action is difficult.

Stewardship

Organisations and institutions do not exist to make heroes of their leaders. Servant Leaders understand that they have a duty to serve their organisation so that it is in better hands for the next generation of leaders. The organisation and the institution are bigger than the leader. This mental model is essential if you wish to be a true Servant Leader.

Commitment to the Growth of People

A Servant Leader aims to have the people they serve become more autonomous or at the very least not to be worse off as a result of their leadership. They strive to help people to find and develop their talents and celebrate in their success, even when this may mean (at times) those people leave the organisation.

Building Community

A Servant Leader is acutely aware that humans require a sense of belonging to help maintain their mental well-being. To this end Servant Leaders work at bringing people together and fostering a sense of community and understand that building community is created one person, one-act at a time.

Servant Leadership is not confined to community, not-for-profit and government agencies. Quite the contrary. Many successful for profit organisations are explicit in their application of Servant Leadership. Three explicit examples include Vanguard, Southwest Airlines and TDIndustries.

If you would like to explore how Servant Leadership can be introduced to your organisation please contact me here.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Be aware of your employability skills

Recent research by Mark McCrindle and his team has indicated that a current school leaver can expect to have 17 employers throughout their career. This equates to three different employers every decade.

iStock_000009570322SmallWhat some of you may find surprising is that the current data for people 45 years and older is that your job tenure average is six years and eight months. This means that more experienced people find themselves out looking for work more than ever.

In this context, conscious development of your employability skills is not just for young people. It is also critical for more experienced people to continually develop your employability skills, given you will also be looking for work at least 1.5 times every decade (and that number is predicted to climb over the next decade).

The challenge for those of you who are more experienced is that while you have experience, you haven’t consciously developed your employability skills. In fact, you are unlikely to know what they are!

If you would like to learn about what employability skills are and how to capture stories that show how you have developed them (which is vital for successful interviews) you can download the first two chapters of my successful book What Really Matters For Young Professionals! for free here. The first chapter explains what employability skills are, and the second chapter teaches you how to capture examples of how you have developed them so that you can recall these stories in interviews.

Once you understand how you have developed your employability skills it is critical that you keep developing them. Your reality is that as more and more people enter the job market with the same skills that you have, the key differentiator between you and someone else is not your skills but how well you have developed your employability skills. In fact, well-developed employability skills are much like a parachute for your career. So check out the free chapters from my book and get moving on protecting your employability.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Schools and Universities are NOT Businesses

Simon Sinek clearly articulates the power of purpose in his book Start With Why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action . He explains that when you understand Why you do what you do, then you have more power to take actions that are consistent with living your purpose.

When you start with why, people follow leaders for themselves. They do not follow leaders for their leaders.

Question Mark SkyWhat is the purpose of our schools and universities? Do they exist to make money? Is that their purpose?

Or do they exist to help children and adults learn how to learn so that they can contribute to creating a better world to live in?

Imagine a school whose purpose was to make money. Business people would be invited on to the school board and no doubt astute business decisions would be made to make sure that the school did indeed make money. Intuitively, what do you think that school would be like to go to? Sure, there would be talented teachers there. But would a talented teacher be 100% engaged with the idea that what they were doing was first about making money? Yes they would receive a nice pay-cheque, but would that make that teacher fully engaged with why the school existed?

What is your intuitive response to this scenario?

Imagine, on the other hand, a school whose purpose was to help children to learn how to learn so that they could contribute to creating a better world. Imagine that same talented teacher working in that school. Intuitively, how engaged with the school do you imagine that teacher would be?

Which of these two teachers would be more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis because of the purpose of their school? The one whose actions will help the school make more money, or the one whose actions will help children learn how to learn so that they can contribute to creating a better world?

If you are reading that I am suggesting that business people should not be on school or university councils then that is not what I am suggesting.

Schools and universities need to be rigorous in their financial practices and learn from the business community about how to make the best use of their money. But the reason for using business principles should always be in the context of serving the purpose of education. Education should not be used as the context for serving the purpose of making money.

Schools and universities require soul and a sense of belonging. The purpose of education must always drive their use of business principles, else they risk serving the wrong purpose and will diminish the education experience of the children and adults they serve.

Based on your experience, what is the purpose of your school or university?

You can view Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk here.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Two Types of Errors

There are two types of errors that we make. The first type is public and can be easily reviewed.

The second type is not obvious and are not easily reviewed so they are nicely tucked away ‘under the carpet‘.

Gary Ryan, Yes For SuccessThe first type is errors of ‘commission‘. These are errors when we do something that should not have been done. We plan poorly. We execute poorly. We review poorly.

Good operators review these errors and make adjustments so that they do not happen again. They learn.

The second type is errors of ‘omission‘. These are errors when you don’t do something that you should do. You don’t call-out unacceptable behaviour. You don’t speak up at a meeting when you ‘know‘ that the decision that has just been made is going to fail. You see an opportunity to improve yourself but you let it slip by.

Please note that errors of omission are not errors that you judge in hindsight. They are errors caused by not taking action that you knew you could have taken at the time the error occurred.

Errors of omission are just as important as errors of commission to review. If you keep repeating the same errors of omission then you will reduce your capacity to learn and to become the very best that you can be.

Asking yourself, your team or your organisation to identify actions that you knew you had the opportunity to take but you didn’t take provides an opportunity to review the thinking that stopped you from taking the action when the time was ‘right’. Exploring these examples will provide you with real learning that will better position you the next time similar situations arise.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Control your development

On the surface it may seem a little odd that I am suggesting that you should maintain 100% control over your personal and professional development.

running person on white background. Isolated 3D imageThe reality is that too many people hand over the responsibility for their development to their employer. They have a parent-child view of their relationship. Their employer ‘the parent’, will look after them and make sure they are properly developed.

The problem here is two-fold.

1. What if the employer doesn’t develop you? and

2. What if they don’t develop you properly?

The answer to both of these questions is that you suffer. No doubt the organisation will suffer too, but the organisation can get rid of you and then you really suffer. The risks associated with handing over 100% of the responsibility for your development are far too high. Yet that is exactly what most employees do.

Even if your employer is a ‘good‘ employer and provides lots of opportunities for you to develop, be prepared to go outside your organisation to develop the things that you need to develop. Be prepared to invest in your development. Treat the opportunities that your ‘good’ employer provides as a bonus.

This way you’ll continue to develop your talents and you will continue to be the best that you can be. Your talent won’t be at risk of being reduced over time.

Not developing your talents is guaranteed to cut your employability and long-term security. Not an outcome you want!

What I find interesting is that I spend about 30% of my time working with talented undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD university students. These students give of their time to get access to the various development programs that I facilitate. They don’t have to attend these programs. They are in control of their development.

Yet when they get a job, these very same students then hand 100% of the responsibility for their development over to their employer. It sounds crazy because it is!

My message is simple. Maintain control over your development.  Forever. Period.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Focus on where you are going

One of my hobbies is motorcycle riding. No doubt it is a dangerous past time. A secret to safe and effective motorcycle riding is to focus on where you are going. Motorcycles ‘go’ wherever the rider is looking.

This doesn’t mean that you should ignore everything else. Quite the contrary. In fact, as much is reasonably possible, when on a motorcycle you must be as aware as possible of everything 360 degrees around you. You have to know that there is a bus coming at you from your left. You have to see the car recklessly changing lanes in your rear vision mirrors. You have to see the parked car that is just about to move away from the kerb.

Photo by David Collopy - Photfit
Photo by David Collopy – Photofit

You must be fully aware of the dangers around you. However, you must not focus on them. If you focus on the dangers your motorcycle will go toward them which is not an outcome you want.

For me riding my motorcycle provides a real and genuine metaphor for life. In my life I must maintain focus on where I am going, while being aware of the dangers around me and taking evasive action as required to steer clear of them so that I can stay on track to where I want to go.

Too often people get focussed on what they don’t want and by doing so they draw it into their lives. Poor relationships. Poor bosses. Never having enough money. Being overweight. This list could go on. By focusing on what you don’t want you bring it to life and actually create it.

Traveling the journey of life requires that you maintain focus on where you want to go, all the while maintaining awareness of what is going on around you. When danger comes, take evasive action and focus on where you need to be to get away from that danger.

This simple principle will help you to create more life balance and personal success. Keep it in mind the next time something negative draws your attention. Maintain the discipline to stay focussed on what you really want.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

To trust means that you are okay with being vulnerable

I am fortunate that my work provides me with countless opportunities to work with teams. One of the activities that I enjoy facilitating is asking the participants to form small groups and to name the characteristics of the effective and ineffective teams of which they have been members.

Examples can come from any team experience and I encourage participants to broaden their thinking about their definition of a ‘team’. Some examples of this definition include:

  • A workplace
  • A family
  • A university study group
  • A sporting team
  • A community group
  • Traveling with friends or family

After providing the participants with enough time to share their stories, I collect the results.

An interesting characteristic that always comes up for effective teams is trust. Similarly, a lack of trust is always raised as a characteristic of ineffective teams.

Trust. Easy to say. Hard to give.

Why? It is my view that trust involves a willingness to be vulnerable. In a team environment, to trust your team members means that you have faith that they will do what they say they will do to the best of their ability. When I ask program participants to describe what it was like to be trusted, they say things like:

“He never looked over my shoulder. Even though it was the first time I was doing this task, he asked if I needed any further help and I said that I didn’t. He told me that I could contact him at any stage if my circumstances changed. If I were him I’m not sure that I could have trusted me like he did. And that was special. I think I actually did the job better because I was trusted. I found it really motivating.”

“She was the leader, there was no question about that. But when we allocated tasks and she was clear that we understood what needed to be done, she let us ‘go for it’. Her door was always open and we knew that, and from time to time we would go to her for help, either physically or via email or on the phone. She was always available when we needed her. But she never, ever behaved like she didn’t trust us. It never felt like she was looking over our shoulder making sure we did it exactly how she would. And this was an important project. And we knew that, and we respected that. That’s why we created such a wonderful result. We were a real team and she trusted us!”

You can’t fake trust. It is either genuine, or it isn’t. In today’s complex world it is nearly impossible to ‘go it alone’. Leaders have to trust their team members to do their job, even if the leader could do parts of the job ‘better’ on their own.

To trust, however, requires the leader to be okay with being vulnerable. Trust can’t be broken if it isn’t given. Genuinely trusting someone means that you are prepared for the possibility that they might break your trust, which in turn makes you vulnerable.

In our world of accountability and responsibility, trust can become very hard to ‘give’. If I’m the leader, the ‘buck stops with me.’ If this project fails, then it’s my fault.

Trust is complex, isn’t it!

I doubt there is any golden rule with regard to trust. I am a trusting person, but I am not prepared to trust ‘just anyone‘. I use all my ‘three brains’ (I’ll explain what that term means in a future article) to decide whether I will trust someone or not.

Each time I trust someone I am conscious of the choice that I have just made. Trust is behavioural, so saying, “I trust you” means nothing, if all I do is look over your shoulder every step of the way. Being prepared to be vulnerable is a tension leaders have to grapple with.

Are you prepared to be vulnerable?

What are your experiences of trust both as a team member and as a leader?

How have you managed the ‘vulnerability‘ tension?

The chances are that if trust is not present in the right circumstances, then high performance is unlikely.

What is the bigger risk; the preparedness to be vulnerable and to risk achieving high performance or the preparedness to be ‘safe’ and therefore achieve under-performance?

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

 

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In business some things are just plain wrong

It turns out that something far more profound than my birth occurred in 1968.

My wife and I recently viewed a film called, Made in Dagenham. The film tells the story about 187 female machinists who went on a three-week strike at the Ford factory in Dagenham, England. Initially the women were outraged that they had been classified under a waMade in Dagenhamge review as ‘unskilled’, and became more indignant when they became acutely aware of the difference in classification and wages between themselves and men doing exactly the same work.

What I found fascinating about the film and my research was that the women, led by Eileen Pullan were not skilled negotiators. They had to defend their actions within the union movement itself (largely run by men) the factory (which employed nearly 40,000 men) and their community. Their strike quickly shut down the entire Dagenham operation ‘laying off’ thousands and thousands of workers.

They stuck to their principles because the behaviour of management, while generally accepted at the time, was just plain wrong. The same level of work should receive the same level of pay irrespective of gender.

Despite the enormous pressure to return to work (including from some of the women’s husbands who had been laid off) the women stuck to their principles and only returned once a guarantee for equal pay had been established and brokered by Barbara Castle, then the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity. At the time the Secretary’s direct intervention with the women was a breach of normal protocols.

As a result of the strike the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970, leading the way for equal pay for women throughout the Western World.

The story and its impact highlighted for me that some business practices and/or behaviours of management are just plain wrong and need to be treated as such. The courage of the Dagenham women highlights how a single-minded approach to ‘righting wrongs’ even in the most lopsided of ‘fights’ can and does result in positive change.

It would be inaccurate of me to suggest that equal pay for women is now a non issue. Quite simply it isn’t. But the Dagenham Strike started the ball rolling in a positive direction.

I recommend watching the movie, not just from an entertainment perspective but from a historical one as well.

Finally, what ‘wrongs’ need to be ‘righted’ in your organisation?

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Life’s journey teaches values

Mike Sheahan’s Open Mike interview with former Brisbane Lion’s coach and three-time premiership player Michael Voss provided a clear insight to the relationship between personal values and workplace decisions.

Sheahan queried Voss about his fallout with former teammate Daniel Bradshaw who left the Brisbane Lions at the end of the 2010 season. Voss shared that he had spoken with Bradshaw on a Tuesday at the end of the season and informed him that there wasn’t any truth in the speculation that Brisbane was making a deal to include Bradshaw in a trade to Carlton so that Brendan Fevola could be recruited to Brisbane. Three days later Voss said that he called Bradshaw to tell him that things had changed and that he was in fact, being considered as part of the deal for Fevola.

Gary RyanBradshaw then left the Brisbane Lions on his own terms and moved to the Sydney Swans. Voss admitted that he had lost his friendship with Bradshaw as a result of the process and that he felt that something wasn’t quite right with the change in the club’s position about Bradshaw over a three-day period. Voss also revealed that despite not feeling right about what was happening he contacted Bradshaw and spoke with him about what had happened and their relationship deteriorated from that point.

The big lesson for Voss was that the experience highlighted the importance of staying true to his values and as such he became a far more values based coach after that experience.

This example highlights that life’s journey will place you in positions where you need to make values based decisions. While this example involves an elite sport ‘workplace’ it is a workplace none the less. You too will face values based challenges in your workplace.

A challenge is that you may not really know what your values are to help you in such circumstances. From my perspective, you never stop learning about your values and even if you do know them, life will continue to offer you opportunities to understand them at a deeper and deeper level.

If you are not clear about your values then one way to gain a better understanding of them is to reflect on the way you feel about the outcome of your decisions or actions on an issue that has been a dilemma for you. How you feel will ‘tell’ you whether your actions were aligned with your values or not. As an example Voss said that his actions didn’t ‘sit well‘ with him and he felt that somehow he ‘…hadn’t done the right thing‘.

None of us are perfect. In an ideal world you would have absolute clarity about your values so that any workplace scenario that confronted you could be easily navigated by your values. But sometime your values won’t have been truly tested to see how important to you they are. It is the result of being tested where you really discover what your values mean to you and how you can use them throughout your career.

On this occasion Voss admitted that he got it wrong and I applaud him for his courage and honesty. The important thing to do is to learn from these experiences. You are no different. Use life’s journey to help you to clarify what your values are and then use them to guide your behaviour at work. You will find that will go home each night feeling more calm and satisfied with your behaviour as a leader despite the challenges that work can throw at you.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.