4 Tips for Servant Leaders

 Maxine I totally agree, I think most of us suffer from the hero leadership syndrome so to speak. In my more humble moments, I think about my lord and saviour whose example of leadership, i.e. servant leadership served him well. He knew when to listen, when to talk, when to give, and how to receive. He practiced the virtue of waiting, and had the courage to admit mistakes and take responsibility. He did all this through serving others (host). By hosting (serving) there can be no loss because everyone wins and the problem/challenge is managed for the best outcome for all. – Delia Joseph GM – PMSL

The phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf.  In his 1970 essay, The Servant as Leader, he shares “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions”

While Delia’s feedback indicates that she views leadership from a religious perspective, her thoughts are very much aligned to Greenleaf’s idea of the servant leadership. (They both view servant-leadership as a life philosophy, as well as, a leadership style.)

Servant leaders share power. They encourage, support and enable team members to unfold their full potential and abilities and invite team members to participate in planning work and making decisions. Characteristics such as trust, empathy, collaboration and the ethical use of power are necessary for this type of leadership to succeed. These leaders bravely debunk the idea of the leader at the top of the food chain and willingly share responsibility and accountability to create more effective teams. Leaders who practice servant-leadership know that this is not an easy path, since it does not preference personal egoistic needs, and often goes against most of what we have learned and seen in leaders – leading from the front, making all decisions, taking full responsibility, delegating, managing, co-ordinating.

For those of us who want to adopt this noble practice I offer four tips, to keep you on track:

  1. Establish Boundaries – In all relationships there are non-negotiable values or principles that we hold dear. Determine what these are for you personally and lead with these in mind. Share these with team members and seek to understand what are their non-negotiable values. Just as the host limits the access of guests to areas of her space – perhaps her bedroom – so too the servant leader determines his boundaries.
  2. Self Care – Serving others can be draining. After attending to the needs of  others, the server must extend self care to himself, to give himself the opportunity to restore, rejuvenate and to rest. Servant leaders need to retreat, to have a sounding board in someone that they trust, and to take time outs for themselves by themselves.
  3. Saying “No” -Saying “No” is essential for maintaining boundaries and practicing self care. Without “No” boundaries become negotiable and self care is optional to the whims, desires, wants and needs of others. The leader articulates “No” without feeling guilt or shame knowing that she is not being egoistic. The leader says “No” believing that she is standing in her personal power, true to her principles and serving the needs of the team .
  4. What would Jesus Do? For those of us who approach servant leadership from a religious perspective, let us ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” Jesus was a complex man, who from an early age questioned and challenged the status quo. While he was humble and served his people he was great at setting boundaries, saying “No”, speaking his truth, standing up for what he believed in and having courage. He showed a whole other side to the kid version of gentle Jesus, meek and mild.

What type of leadership do you practice? What tips do you use to keep yourself on track?

Maxine Attong is the author of two books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead Your Team to Win.  She works with leaders to create more effective and efficient organisations.  She is a Keynote Speaker, a Gestalt Organisational  Development Consultant, a Certified Professional Facilitation, Evidence Based Coach and a Certified Accountant.

God in the work I do

Feedback from KF  “I enjoyed reading your ten tips and am very happy to see the commitment to ensuring that your spirituality is not separate . Very inspirational.”

This comment resonated deeply with me. When I’m speaking in general terms I replace the word God with Higher Power or the Universe to be inclusive and acknowledge that readers have different points of reference and beliefs.  When I speak of myself and my belief, then I use the word God, because that’s what I believe.
A few years ago, I would not have used the word God. It has taken a whole lot of bravery and some self talk to write the word, and in doing so make the declaration. It is not that I am by any means religious. I know a handful of prayers, even fewer biblical quotes and I don’t regularly attend church services. Yet I truly believe in God.
There was a time I thought that to talk about God while talking business was taboo, a bit bush and plain unscientific. As an accountant, I worked with numbers – numbers have no mystery, they are not fickle, the answer is always certain without any doubt. They are tangible evidence of decisions made and actions taken, and I could control the bottom line.  I would discourage any God talk, reject all chain letters and quickly exit the room when vocal religious or bible quoting persons entered the room.
As I developed my life’s vision and my orientation shifted to people, I saw a change in my belief system.

How can I enhance the lives of others if I do not believe in something bigger, more powerful than I?

How can I help people achieve their dreams if I don’t trust that there is an endless supply for all of us?

How can I assist others to trust their innate intelligence and creativity if I don’t have faith in love?

In working with people I have learnt a deep appreciation for the good and intangible being that provides the energy and wisdom for me to do the work that I do – and that for me is God.
And so with this new belief, I’ve learnt to listen to clients with my heart, to feel in my body what they feel, to follow their spirits as they soar and as they dip and to be honest and kind when giving feedback. This is not magic, this comes from me knowing and acknowledging  that I am not in control, that there is more to life than what I can see and feel, that there is a power that loves me, fuels me and gives me all that I need.

How do you see God/ Higher Power/ Universe in the work that you do? #Godworks

P.S. I still reject chain letters, avoid bible quoters and don’t enter into God talks that don’t celebrate the humanity of and in others

Maxine Attong is the author of two business books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead your Team to Win. She is a speaker, coach, Organisational Development consultant and of course an accountant.


Vision – This is how we do it

I’ve been having the vision conversation, and not everyone gets it. The audience wanted to know “How is my vision “to enhance the lives of people with whom I make contact’ expressed in what I do on a daily basis?” and “How do the 10 steps help me achieve vision?” I was challenged to give a real example that they could follow.

I explained that when I think of my vision in its entirety, it is BIG, so I don’t.  I use it as a guide for the actions that I take and then focus on the actions. Writing books, coaching, and working with teams and work groups are how I live my vision.

Since I decided to write my third book, I can use this decision to explain how the 10 steps apply.

  1. Chunk it down – When I’m writing I don’t think about my vision – I checked that the book’s theme is aligned to my vision before deciding to write. When I write  I focus on the theme. I don’t think of the whole book – that’s too much –  I write one word, one page , one chapter at a time. .
  2. Acknowledge your fear – Writing a book is daunting, with lots of questions. “Is the topic relevant?” “Will the book sell?” In  the middle of writing I may find my idea mundane or I procastinate to write. I know that the questions and the hesitation are expressions of fear – my fear of not being good enough or that my writing or thinking is not sophisticated enough.  Once I admit that I’m afraid and the source of my fear it’s easier  to move on.
  3. Stand in your love ones’ shoes  – When I’m writing I go into a zone that only has space for one and there is no map for others to follow. My social patterns also change and I rearrange my schedule to literally create time to write. I remind the people in my life that I have not lost interest my – interest is temporarily displaced. Sometimes they are not convinced, and that’s on me.
  4. Use your discretion – I have different circles of friends, each with different belief systems. There are those who have a deep belief in the possibility of the impossible and there are others who need to touch and feel to believe. In the formative stages I share with the first group.
  5. Protect your vision – Now that my book is just an idea I don’t share.  I leave it to gestate in the dark of my mind, until it tells me that its ready to emerge. I don’t force it, I trust that it’s doing what it must and when it is ready it will emerge
  6. Remember your past – I use the tips and tricks that I used when writing my first two books.  I will do the things that worked and dump the things that did not.
  7. You are not a mover/ shaker – While I don’t generally have this problem I employ the help of a coach when I get stuck.
  8. Steel yourself – It’s going to be a long 6 months or more between now and publishing the book. Unfortunately the world does not stop and I have to fulfil all my usual obligations. I’m going to change my sleeping patterns, my weekend routine and lots of other bits of my life to achieve this. I don’t worry about it it, it’s what I want to do. Come hell or high water it’s what  I’m going to do.
  9. Call on your Higher Power -.I believe in God. I set my intention to complete the book, ask for his guidance and have faith that this is aligned to his plan for me. Each day I show up and do my part.
  10. Get a coach –  I have a mentor, with whom I discuss my books in detail. He is my sounding board and gives me great feedback. When I get stuck I call my coach and get a session so I can move again.

I hope this example helps you understand how to apply the 10 tips.  If you have any other questions, send me a note.

Maxine Attong is the author of two business books – Change or Die – The Business Process Improvement Manual and Lead your Team to Win. She is a speaker, coach, Organisational Development consultant and of course an accountant.

Faith in Selma

I watched the movie Selma today and I was reminded of the importance of having impossible dreams. This movie depicts the 1965 struggle of the U.S. Civil Rights movement for voting equality for the African American.
As I watched the movie I saw that Dr. Martin Luther King and the men and women who supported him were imperfectly perfect, just like me. Yet unlike me they were very brave, extremely courageous and believed in the impossible.
As I watched the movie I wondered,
“What would make someone believe that a few could change history?
“What would make someone risk his/her life for something they believed in?”
“What would make someone despite their fear act fearlessly?”
The answer for me is faith – faith in something stronger than humans, in something more inspiring than history, in something more powerful than a gun and something more formidable than a US President.
As I always do, when I look at someone I admire I look at myself in the mirror.
I am not brave, because I do not have faith.
I am not fearless, because I do not have faith
At times I doubt the impossible, because I do not have faith.
Today I am reminded of the power of faith.
Today I am reminded that faith will work to give me what I want.
Today I am reminded that there is magic afoot when I have faith.
Today I am reminded that I am brave and fearless and that I will achieve the impossible once I have faith.

What can you do if you have faith?

The three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 were part of the Voting Rights Movement underway in Selma, Alabama. By highlighting racial injustice in the South, they contributed to passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. Activists publicized the three protest marches to walk the 54-mile (87 km) highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery as showing the desire of African-American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression. “Wikipedia”

December is Party month

December is a time of parties. Sunday evening I went to a friend’s birthday party and today I attended a client’s end of year event. I usually dread these events. I attend out of a sense of duty – it’s my friend, she invited me or it’s part of my job. Sometimes I am in a state of dread, wondering if I will speak out of turn when I hear something stupid, or if I will eat or drink too much because I am totally bored.
These concerns were unfounded, as both yesterday and today I had a great time at each event.
I met wonderful people and we chatted for extended periods. On Sunday I met a female executive at a traditional male organisation and we chatted about power, misogyny and navigation of a political system. Later that evening I met a man who lived with chronic arthritic pain for over 10 years and was celebrating his new found mobility courtesy his monthly intravenous drips.
Tonight at the client’s event, I met a colleague and learned about his career moves, challenges and successes since last we spoke.
These for me were two perfect evenings. Sure the food was tasty and the wine was decent, but these details are secondary for me. When I go out I want to connect with people, to meet them as they are and to hear from them where they are at and what they are doing. In that moment when I am with them I am not interested in anything else, I want to plug into them, to hear their tales, their point of view and to share mine. I want them to tell me how they feel, what they are thinking and what they are hoping for. I want to find some nugget in what they share, take away something to ruminate on and to appreciate at least one thing that is unique about them. In the moment of our meeting I want to congratulate them and cheer them on to whatever they want to achieve.
I want to connect, I want to make contact, I want it to be real. In return I open up my world, my aspirations, inspirations and my challenges.
Before this December month, I have not been socializing much. I am tired of chitter chatter, mindless networking over drinks and the pointless exchange of business cards. I am fed up of being re-introduced to the person who never remembers me
as we ridiculously pump up in a meaningless handshake. I have been turned off by the diminishing value of socialising since I often walked away without the smallest of connections.
The last two evenings have restored my faith. If I met three interesting people in two nights maybe in a week I can meet ten?
Since I know that when I point a finger, there are three pointing back at me, I contrasted how I showed up in the last two nights.
For the last two nights, I stayed in the present time, I was not distracted ( no phone) and I was genuinely interested in others’ stories. I phrased my questions appropriately and listened as the answers were given. I did not exchange business cards nor numbers. It was all about that moment, and making that moment pleasurable. I was totally focussed on the person in front of me and I responded in the moment to whatever was important to us in the moment.
Now I am now looking forward to attending the other events that I have for the year. I am going to enjoy all of them.

What was the last boring party that you went to? How did you contribute to the boredom?