Thursday, June 5, 2014

When It Comes to Leadership, It's Your Serve

I was watching the French Open yesterday and it got me thinking. Whether it's tennis, volley ball or even ping pong, these sports require a serve and a response. In business, whether intentional or not, leaders serve and employees respond. If leaders serve literally, then employees respond more positively and more productively. This article will give you tips on how to improve your game as a leader.

1. Be Invisible: "The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware" (Lao-Tzu fifth-century BC). Watch a team sport and the players all basically look the same. Everyone has the same uniform and the same color. If you watch long enough, the true leaders emerge not because of a uniform, but because of an ethic. Same is true in business, it's not the office or the title that make the leader. It's the work ethic and the example set. True leaders aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. It's this modeling of desired behavior that will lead employees to follow suit.

2. Power - Less is more. In a nutshell, traditional leadership is more about accumulation and exercise of power, while servant leadership is about growth and well-being of employees. Servant leadership is not having managers cater to their employees, but it is leading by example. For years at work we had a designated parking area. Management decided to suggest that employees park in a new area further from the door. It wasn't a mandate and I really liked my old parking spot, but when I saw my boss park in the new area which was further away lugging more gear than me, well I was moved - literally. Mandate or not I followed the example set before me. It wasn't the power that moved me to act, but the action of those in power. Margaret Thatcher said it best, "Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t!"

3. Have a suck-up free environment. Ken Blanchard, a prominent, sought-after author, speaker, business consultant, and servant leadership expert says, "Servant leadership is about getting people to a higher level by leading people at a higher level.” In the work place, we want employees who are not boss-watchers or boss-pleasers. They act one way when the boss is away and totally opposite when he/she is present. Servant leadership will build the type of community where employee/employer work together towards a common goal no matter who is watching. Suck-ups suck, and not just figuratively. They drain the work place of integrity. Morale goes out the window. Employees with character want to know that their leader can see through the deception of others. Lead at a higher level to cultivate an environment of mutual trust and respect.

4. Are you a leader or a driver? People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives (Theodore Roosevelt).The followingdifferentiates nicely the difference between a servant leader and a traditional leader:

A boss drives employees, depends on authority, inspires fear, says "I", places blame, knows how it's done, uses people, takes credit, commands, says "go".A leader coaches employees, depends on goodwill, generates enthusiasm, says "we", fixes the breakdown, shows how it's done, develops people, gives credit, asks, says "let's go".

Which type of leader are you? The ball is in your court and it's your serve.

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