What about Leadership for the Future – Which is Now?

hugh anthony, certified lifestyle speaker · author · lifestyle coach

“The world economy demands an alternative way of doing business and workers demand a different style of leadership.” — Dr. Tony Baron, The Art of Servant Leadership

In reflecting on the issue of leadership in organizations, be it those I have had the privilege of being a team member, professionally or voluntarily; or the ones I happen to read about from a magazine, blog or other sources, the core value that breed success is that of selflessness.

As with the open quote for this blog, I often wondered; if our leaders have taken the time to reflect on their own leadership or the style of leadership they bring, share or impose on others (or moreso, the people they should be serving).  In a more light-hearted questioning manner – Do organizations understand the type of leadership needed to respond to future, which is now?

We live in an era of unrelenting change, as individuals, citizens, customers, entrepreneurs and leaders the challenge is how we respond, to bring meaningfulness not just to our organizations, but even to our own lives.  Can we bring meaningfulness, if we don’t understand what is expected?   In researching themes on leadership, the suggestions are that the leader’s task is to align, empower, serve and collaborate.  In leadership for business, there should be adaptability, self-awareness and selflessness as we contend and engage in more complex, dynamic and creative work processes; and encounter a more diverse workforce than ever before.

Businesses do exist to meet a need, albeit, businesses are also driven by need for profits, however they should not be camouflaged as corporate motifs masked as greed, exploitation and to serve a select few.  Or be led by egotists or demagogues whose selfishness impairs their ability to lead authentically both professionally and personally.   The 21st-century leadership requires a shift in outlook, direction and strategy, if leaders are to be successful in empowering people (internal and external customers) bring value-driven philosophy and sustain superior performance, while contending with complexity in the world of business. How will this be achieved?

Bill B. Flint, Jr. in his recent book The Journey to Competitive Advantage through Servant Leadership proffered a thesis that will help leaders build a company every person dreams of working and every president has a vision of leading.   Bill referred to the term servant leadership developed by Robert K. Greenleaf, and its context is a leadership philosophy that values people, work and community; and focuses on helping people discover and reach their potential.

Bill defines servant leadership as a “… style of leadership that helps companies develop and nurture the unique and collective skills, abilities, and talents of the people within their company.” The servant leader brings purpose, passion and character,  and collaborate with the people they serve, by looking for ways to help everyone feel good about their efforts.

Servant leadership empowers the leader to understand that to lead is to serve. Encouraging and articulating a participative approach to leadership, with the outcome being the greatest possible performance and high levels of employee satisfaction.

The characteristic of the servant leadership as highlighted by Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and others:

  • Self-Awareness: Each of us is the instrument through which we lead. If we want to be effective servant-leaders, we need to be aware of who we are and how we impact others. The servant leader  has the ability to view situations from a more integrated, holistic position. As a result, the servant leader gets a better understanding about ethics and values.
  • Listening: Servant-leaders use emphatic listening as they seek first to understand and then to be understood. Servant Leaders listen actively in as many ways as possible and motivate team members to share and support them in decision identification.
  •  Empowering and developing people: giving people in the workplace responsibility for their own actions. Through empowerment, the servant leader acknowledges the talents and strengths of employees. Underlying empowerment is the acknowledgment that employees are not merely subordinates, but that each is an individual in their own right.
  • Humility: this is an attitude and acknowledgment by the servant leader that they are neither omniscient nor omnipotent, and that employees may have more knowledge and experience. For servant leaders in organisations dependent on knowledge workers, this is especially important as it is highly probable that employees do indeed know more about their specialisation than anyone else inside the company. By acknowledging fallibility and the limits of one’s own knowledge, the servant leader helps to facilitate a learning environment: one in which employees can learn and develop through their own experimentation and by learning from others. This potential for self-determination has a powerful and positive influence on the workplace and further aids the long-term fostering of a learning culture.
  • Authenticity: is a significant factor as it enables the servant leader to show very clearly to employees that not only can they be themselves, but also that the work environment genuinely encourages and welcomes this. To show authenticity the servant leader must act with integrity: they must do as they have promised; show consistency in actions and morality; and be true to themselves and the spirit of the leadership principles they preach. The benefit of authenticity is that ultimately it supports and reinforces the values of the servant leader.
  • Interpersonal acceptance: the ability to understand and experience the feelings and motivations of others is essential in a servant leadership culture. Empathy and forgiveness must go hand-in-hand. The latter is particularly important if a culture in which it is accepted that people can and do make mistakes is to be developed with authenticity. By accepting employees as individuals, the servant leader shows understanding and appreciation of their unique perspectives and allows people to feel that they matter.
  • Providing direction: knowing what the servant leader expects of them is beneficial for employees and the organisation. To provide direction the servant leader must make work dynamic and have it tailored to the abilities and needs of employees.
  • Stewardship: is the willingness to take responsibility for the larger institution and to focus on service instead of control and self-interest. Leaders should act not only as caretakers but also as role models for others. By setting the right  example, leaders can stimulate others to act in the common interest. Closely related to stewardship is social  responsibility, loyalty and teamwork
  • Foresight is the ability to foresee the likely outcome of a situation. It enables the servant leader to learn about the past and to achieve a better understanding about the current reality. It also enables the servant leader to identify consequences about the future.

The fact is that leadership is not a position, it’s about character, and as John Maxwell highlights, “the measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve the leader, but the number of people served by the leader.”  How  companies inspire individuals to give their best and translate into superior strategy for businesses, translate in having leaders whose essence of character is helping others being their best.


© 2012 Hugh Anthony. All rights reserved.


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