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Servant Leadership

As a software development company, most of our leadership comes and continues to be farmed from the best ranks of engineers. The benefit of this is that those taking on the responsibility of leadership also understand the many technical requirements and processes involved in our development life-cycle. However, what is missing and probably has been missed throughout the various careers of many of our great engineering/leadership minds is real leadership learning.

Traditionally, we learn leadership from those we follow. Rare is it, for those of us who lead, to have had formal leadership training or good leadership role models during our careers. Basically, we just “wing it”. We go with our gut, common sense, and lead as we have been led. But are our instincts and assumptions right? Do they produce the results we really want?

Today we hear more and more about the “new” concept of servant leadership. Actually, it is not really new at all. Servant leadership has roots going back to the beginning of man. I’ll spare you the biblical history lesson for now. The idea of servant leadership is that of leaders doing what it takes to help employees succeed. It also involves, among many other practices, including those we lead in the goals and future success of the organization. The servant leader asks, “what can I do to help you succeed in your job, or reach your goals.

The top down leader dictates commands and sets goals in his or her own leadership vacuum. Examples of the dictator style, or more accurately, Theory X style (Douglas McGregor’s Theory X & Theory Y) of leadership can be found throughout history on the battle field and in the preparation for those great battles fighting for the causes of tyranny or liberty. The heat of battle dictates commands be given and commands be carried out without question as there is not time for a participatory management style when others are trying to kill you or sack your city.

But in the workplace, we as leaders should continually ask ourselves and learn why people come here to work. Then, we should trust them to do good work, to be creative, innovative, and make good decisions for the good of the organization. Will mistakes happen? You bet. Will we recover from them? I believe we almost always will when they are mistakes made with good intent for the organization, its customers, and the employees we serve. Should we hold people accountable for these mistakes? Of course, but we should also be careful not to confuse control with accountability. What you control too tightly, you kill. What you encourage and measure, you grow. So if you have been winging it or over the years of your leadership career or you have been duplicating the poor to mediocre leadership practices of others, you should ask next, “How do I become more learned in the best practices in leadership?

The answer for now:

  1. Read a book on leadership every month
  2. Learn more about servant leadership and why it works in the corporate world
  3. Find a servant leadership roll-model, mentor, or coach
  4. Begin to take more interest in the employees you serve
  5. And, continue to read The Spoon and stay tuned for future, leadership learning opportunities.
Categories: leadership
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