Leading from the middle

The following are the notes of the May 28th Servant-Leader roundtable at the Mad Rooster Café.  The topic for the day was introduced by participants and served as an affirmation that the wisdom is in the room.

 

Question:  How do we promote servant leadership from the middle?
Situation:  If a company has been command and control orientation, focused only on results (‘we need to hit our numbers’) oriented.  A new manager comes into the middle of the organization.  How does he/she try to influence the organization to embrace servant leadership from the middle?

 

On our commitment to Servant Leadership:

  • The larger the organization the easier it is to have an impact within your own circle of influence.
  • Don’t label it…do it.  We don’t need to use the word servant leader.  The best influence is our example.
  • Lead by example.  Show how it can work.  However, it is very hard to be a servant leader and influence the organization when the functional leader is not a servant leader.  We all struggle with having enough patience to let servant leadership work.  It is a marathon…not a sprint.  Yet deadlines are real.  Sometimes we simply don’t have time to wait for servant leadership to work.  Patience.
  • The results follow the leadership…not the other way around.

On building community:

  • Where do we want to be as a team?  Try to be more informative than commanding.
  • We need to help people understand that Servant Leadership is not a zero sum game where we (necessarily) receive immediate gratification from our actions.
  • People on the team can be inspired and reminded that all of us can be a little better and a little more effective that we are.
  • When we start to see the results you know it is starting to work.  It breads on itself.  If you start to see managers ‘catching’ people doing something good.
  • This month, the roundtable followed a “hot topic” format as a way to make Servant Leadership tangible.  Depending on the environment, this may be a good way for teams to explore Servant Leadership.

On leading and self awareness:

  • Actions get attention.
  • You don’t always know how what you say influences people.
  • Many organizations start by focusing on results and try to work back to servant leadership.  It is the other way around.  You need to start with yourself and be aware that the results are the byproduct of good leadership.
  • John shared an example of a dangerous situation in his workplace that required a response from the leadership team.  John did not ‘respond’, or react emotionally when everyone was following the misinformation about the situation…even though he was there and knew that the situation was in fact different.  John waited until later to explain the situation to the CEO.  While he could have spoken up during the meeting he used his own best judgment at the time.
  • Always respect the boss’s judgment on how to deal with the truth.

FYI – Referenced during our roundtable:

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Author: Dan Lococo

I am a whole person called to engage with others as they realize their own wholeness. Service is the act of engaging with others on their journey to realizing their own wholeness. (December, 2013)

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