Are Servant Leaders Becoming Extinct?


In a world where everyday interactions becoming a series of activities that promote your value over helping others achieve success, I wonder if Servant Leaders are becoming extinct.

With a lot of leadership styles to choose from, I glommed on to Ken Blanchard’s work almost 30 years ago as something I could understand, remember and implement because it aligned well with what I was sort of doing without a guidebook. It was easier back then to be a Servant Leader because I had a lot of role models. Now granted I had a lot of the dark side cousin, Self-Serving Leaders, as role models too, but I saw that style as a losing proposition.

In the past 15 years, Self-Serving Leaders have taken over most of the management roles in corporate America, and in their midst of self-promotion have left carnage in their wake. It is tougher to be a Servant Leader in a corporate culture that rewards self-serving activities more. It used to be a self-serving leader was called out for their behaviors but now they are ignored, or worse, out of fear they are supported.

I bet there is a self-serving leader in your company that you can identify because they do everything to promote themselves, while they work overtime to diminish the value of others. In fact it is this last point I want to emphasis in this blog today.

This individual will often performance manage other employees around them in order to build up themselves as being indispensable. If the only person left standing that knows their job is the Self-Serving Leader, then mission accomplished! It doesn’t matter if you are a subordinate, peer or the manager; you must never come off knowing more than they do. They want to be feared and often they are, so they remain the center of attention.

Servant Leaders are more productive and have less time to play games, especially defense. They will fight to protect their team members, yet often lose their own battles with the dark side.

The only times I see Servant Leadership completely win out over Self-Serving Leadership is when the top boss in a Servant Leader. They simply do not tolerate the disruption of the Self-Serving Leader and eliminate these people. Ask any CEO that is a Servant Leader if they have Self-Serving Leaders in their organization and they will either say No, or yes but not for much longer. Powerful!

I hope you have had the privilege to have worked with at least one Servant Leader. Chances are all of you have had a Self-Serving Leader in your career. Share in the comments the pluses and minuses you have experienced. But please don’t use their real names.


Are You Happy With Your Job?


A good friend I worked with 25 years ago once gave me the best advice about a job. She said roughly, that a job was a source of income to pay for the bills you have now and to save for your retirement. That if I found myself doing what I loved to do and it filled my passion, then I was a very fortunate person. It reminded me that being happy was just a bonus I could hope for if lucky.

Many of you may argue that finding your passion is the first goal, and seeking out that job is the second goal. Yet I realized that day I was finally in a job that made me happy. I had given up a career in retail banking for a career in learning development. I spent 30 years in that field and left after it was no longer fun. I had only been doing this job for a couple of years, and I didn’t recognize all that was part of being happy.

While the actual work became more of a challenge, that only kept me more engaged. But when my manager and mentor left and I began reporting to a real piece of work that was clueless about training, my little world of happiness took a quick dive. The location of my office was changed to a new downtown address with a lengthy and dismal commute. And did I mention to save money this manager had us cubicle sharing? Two days a week it was crowded!

Then one day, I got a new manager that was brilliant in instructional design, performance consulting and wanted me to learn what she knew so well. I had a Servant Leader again for a manager, and a new mentor. We had home offices setup, so no commute and I only shared my space with the cats. Life was actually quite happy for the next 6 years until I chose to leave for a new company and new challenges.

But with that new company, all the money and benefits, great office I also landed one of the most Self-Serving Leaders I’ve ever worked for. He was great when things were going well, and a real monster that liked ripping people apart. While I built up an awesome team of people, everything was fine if I blocked my staff from the top floor chaos. When I had finally had enough I left, and the flood gates were let loose on my team.

I became an independent consultant, and have never worked for another manager since. Instead I am the mentor to many paying forward the good fortune I received. I am happy again. What kept me from my happiness in the field of my greatest passion was poor leadership. So few companies bother to find out why people leave. They just process the paperwork and look for a replacement. All of these terrible managers have done quite well for themselves, and my faith has allowed me to forgive them and move on.

Bottom line though is I have worked to earn money to pay my bills and save for retirement. I have also been happy a good percentage of the time, so I guess I have been fortunate too!