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A serving approach to leadership isn’t for everyone AND you can achieve success in your leadership endeavors without embracing it.  Yes, you read that correctly. Servant leadership is not the only way to lead your team or organization to success.  While I believe a strong case can be made for servant leadership being the model that leads to the highest levels of success, there are many examples in the marketplace where a more traditional, hierarchical approach is taken and success follows.

Here are ten preferences or beliefs a leader may have that give them and us an indication that servant leadership may not be them.  As you read through the list, you may find yourself asking, “Well, what’s wrong with that?”  That’s the thing.  This list isn’t to say that there is something wrong with you or any leader who is comfortable with these beliefs or preferences.  Simply, if you do embrace them, then servant leadership is probably not for you.

  1. It’s important to you to have involvement on most things that happen in your organization
  2. You are in the weeds most of the time and are very busy working “in” the organization
  3. You typically prefer to be giving advice and direction
  4. You have ambitious career goals and big plans for yourself
  5. It’s important to you to keep clear lines of separation between management and subordinates
  6. You typically avoid interpersonal conflict and prefer to allow HR to handle it
  7. Chain of command is very important to you and it is relied upon for communication
  8. You prefer to leave feedback and performance conversations for the once or twice a year it is required
  9. You believe business and personal are separate and the two shouldn’t really intersect
  10. The only purpose or mission worth talking about is success (or survival) of the business

For those feeling daring today and want to see what the servant leadership version of each of these ten, keep reading.

  1. You create strong agreements on the roles and responsibilities of each team member and trusts it will be honored
  2. You are very busy and are very strategic about your time so you can work “on” the organization or team
  3. You prefer to spend time listening and asking questions to tap into the wisdom of the team or person
  4. You believe that your success and career growth is based on the success of those you lead and prefers to be out of the spotlight
  5. You believe in being very connected to all levels of the team and organization as a way to build trust
  6. You are uncomfortable with interpersonal conflict (aren’t we all) and yet, makes it a priority to personally address it when it’s appropriate for you to do so
  7. You believe hierarchy (a.k.a. chain of command) is only in place to to ensure everything is being cared for and team members are properly served
  8. You prefer to have feedback conversations (constructive or praise) as and when it is called for throughout the year
  9. You are very comfortable with blurred lines between business and personal.
  10. You have a bigger purpose to serve than just business success and encourage your team members to have a bigger purpose too.

Daringly pick one of these that feel uncomfortable to you and comment below.  I’ll email you a framework to put that one daring choice into action.

Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

What People Are Saying

Leslie   |   20 April 2015   |   Reply

I loved both of these lists. Great insight for me on the non servant leader style. It certainly makes me uncomfortable. Here’s the thing…. I’m a servant leader without a title and my director isn’t a servant leader with a title. I’m constantly trying to develop products and services for our clients in a different way than she would and that makes her uncomfortable. I have difficulty understanding her approach but am trying because ultimately we need to work together more productively to be successful. For that reason, I dare to work outside my servant leadership comfort zone.

Jeff Harmon   |   21 April 2015   |   Reply

Thank you for your comment Leslie. You are definitely in a challenging situation. I see you being a servant leader to your director. Although she doesn’t sound like a “toxic” leader, check out this post to see if there’s some strategies you could employ http://brilliancewithincoaching.com/servant-leadership/7-strategies-to-being-a-leader-in-a-toxic-environment

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