The Good Book for Leadership
Recently, I put this question to my long time friend and highly successful author and business consultant Sam Deep: What Bible verses have made an impact on the way you think about and do your work? He’s graciously given his answers that make up my blog for this Monday as I travel.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
Sam: The brother of Jesus explains why my approach to leadership development has changed. Experience tells me that many managers get too little out of the excellent training they receive and the insightful blogs they consume. They do learn from the training, and even nod their heads in agreement with it. They devour the articles, and even pass them on to others. But once back on the job they continue in their old ways. They fail to look in the mirror and say, “This is something that I vow to improve in my leadership.” My solution to this natural human tendency toward inaction is found on my website: www.leaderstakeaction.com. Every other week robust leadership mandates are sent to managers in an engaging and compact e-newsletter format. Each one is a 3-7 minute read, ending in a plan of attack.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Sam: The most influential leader who ever lived spawned a revolutionary philosophy of influence. Books are written about it, workshops are conducted on it, and think tanks exist to further it. The notion of servant leadership causes executives, supervisors, and even parents to reframe the way they wield authority. It’s putting yourself in second place as you put those you lead in first place. On the commute home, servant leaders do not ask, “What did my people do for me today?” but rather, “What did I do for my people?”
Why is this leadership style becoming more popular? After all, the idea of servanthood carries a negative connotation in the liberated world of the 21st Century. Even advocates of the idea seek to euphemize it. One company tried “leadership through service.” But this misses the point that leaders are to sacrifice their needs in favor of the needs of followers.
The outcomes of servant leadership are its best justification. Where it is practiced, followers are validated as human beings. They are inspired, engaged, and won over. They are encouraged to give their best and to feel more accountable for their performance.
Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.
Sam: Leadership has its highs and lows. The highs are magnificent, but the lows can be downright disheartening. It is inevitable that people or results will disappoint you. You most certainly need to insist upon the best that your people can give, but when they fall short, you must not place blame in anger. Losing it achieves nothing. Instead, learn to ask three questions: (1) “What happened?” (2) “Why did it happen?” and (3) “What are we doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again?” Remain as unruffled as you remain uncompromising.
Psalm 121 has been a favorite of mine ever since I wrote a paper on it in a sophomore English class. (I don’t imagine that would be an acceptable topic these days.) It begins with the direction, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains.” And then describes the protection that God provides.
Sam: It does not direct us to look down or behind. Yet, too many business leaders are doing that these days. The DNA, or default condition, of every organization should be a laser focus on insuring success. When the focus is instead on preventing failure, corporate culture won’t support a brighter future. Success insurers strive to make things better; failure preventers are determined to keep them from getting worse. All of this said, even the most progressive organizations adopt some failure-prevention strategies. In bad economic times, increased reliance on them may even be a mandate. But, when an organization goes too deep or stays too long in that condition, the opportunities presented by better times are difficult to exploit. A failure prevention culture, taken root, is hard to eradicate.
Originally published on The Way WE Work.