(This is the tenth installment in my twelve-part blog series A Leadership Vision for America.)
Now let’s look at the fourth and final secret for fixing Washington. This secret will encompass and bring to life the first three secrets.
The Fourth Secret: Elect Servant Leaders
Assumption: The more that our leaders are in Washington to serve and not be served, the better chance we have to mend what’s wrong with our country.
The world is in desperate need of a different leadership role model. Everyone has seen the negative effects of self-serving leaders in every segment of our society. In fact, to a great extent, the whole economic downturn has been the result of self-serving leaders through the years who thought all the money, recognition, power, and status should move up the hierarchy in their direction, and everyone else be damned.
Yet, when I mention servant leadership to people, they often think it means the inmates are running the prison, or trying to please everybody, or even some type of religious movement. They think you can’t lead and serve at the same time. Yet you can, if you understand that there are two parts to servant leadership:
- A visionary, or strategic, role—the leadership aspect of servant leadership
- An implementation, or operational, role—the servant aspect of servant leadership
The first secret for fixing Washington—having a compelling vision—was focused on the visionary/strategic, or leadership, aspect of servant leadership. Once an organization has a compelling vision, they can set goals and define strategic initiatives that suggest what people should be focusing on right now. With a compelling vision, these goals and strategic initiatives take on more meaning and therefore are not seen as a threat, but as part of the bigger picture.
The traditional hierarchical pyramid is effective for the leadership aspect of servant leadership. People look to their organizational leaders for direction, as Americans look to Washington. While leaders should involve experienced people in shaping vision/direction, goals, and strategic imperatives, the ultimate responsibility remains with the leaders themselves and cannot be delegated to others.
Implementation/operational leadership, or the servant aspect of servant leadership—living according to the vision and direction—is where most leaders and organizations get into trouble. With self-serving leaders at the helm, the traditional hierarchical pyramid is kept alive and well, leaving the customers uncared for at the bottom of the hierarchy. All the energy in the organization moves up the hierarchy as people try to please and be responsive to their bosses, leaving the customer contact people to be “ducks,” “quacking” and saying things like, “It’s our policy,” “I just work here,” “I didn’t make the rules,” or “Do you want to talk to my supervisor?”
Servant leaders, on the other hand, feel that their role is to help people achieve their goals. They intuitively know that effective implementation requires turning the hierarchical pyramid upside down so the customer contact people are at the top of the organization and can be responsible—able to respond and soar like eagles—while leaders serve and are responsive to the needs of their people, helping them to accomplish goals and live according to the vision/direction, goals, and strategic imperatives of the organization.
Since the customer contact people are “in the know,” they see themselves as your responsible business partners and, therefore, are committed to not only serving customers but to solving problems. This is what the second and third secrets of fixing Washington are all about: We must treat our citizens as our business partners and involve all segments of society to solve our problems.
To wrap up my Leadership Vision for America series, I’ll have some final thoughts for you next time and then a special message on November 3. Let me know what you think!