Our topic for the day: “Leading up as a Servant-Leader.” We all answer to others in one way or another; bosses, Board members, customers, etc. As we seek to cultivate a Servant-Leader environment, we sometimes need to cultivate S-L qualities in those who have authority over us as well as those we lead.
The following notes are a summary of the roundtable conversation held at the Mad Rooster Café in Milwaukee, WI on Thursday, March 26. The conversation included a variety of people from different backgrounds and organizational affiliations.
Much of our conversation focused on the importance of having our own house in order as a tool for having positive influence over others. Whether we are looking at those we serve through our leadership or those we serve who have authority over us, we provide the best example and have the most leverage when we are grounded in principles that reflect our values and the mission of the people/organizations we are committed to.
Thoughts on awareness:
- We can look through the lens of perpetual “too busy” or consciously adopt the perspective “I have a full and enriching life.”
Keep a sense of balance between important and urgent. Often the fire fighting is daily and we never get to the inspired strategic plan.
- Often the things we think are urgent are repetitive. Developing personal practices for dealing with the important (strategic) activities as well as the routine activities that (when neglected) become urgent is a method for maintaining a balance.
- Keeping track of who we are in relation to our organizational environment is a challenge worth taking on. Relationships and relationship building skills are a critical part of our organizational life.
- If you lose track of whom you are and the role you play, you can fail. There is a need to keep track of your skills at critical conversations and influencing up. Don’t assume you are good at it. It is important to recognize the combination of skill and relationship with your boss that allows you to be able to have those critical conversations
Thoughts on being intentional:
- The urgent calls to us for many reasons in many ways (including from those in authority roles above us). We need to prioritize and focus on being intentional.
- Being in a shared service/support position in a company can make is particularly hard to prioritize. Inherent in support roles is responding to the urgent. Is pretty hard to filter the noise.
- You need to internalize the process of focusing on the important things. It is easy to do the “dam dailies”. We need to plan to do the 3 hours of focus on the strategic matters that are important but not urgent.
- It is necessary to be both courageous and vulnerable with your boss and the people you lead. Focus on mission, vision and strategy. As new priorities come out, keep going back to the mission and the goal.
- Does this line up with the overarching mission and goal.
- Don’t overlook the power of kindness. Bosses have the same need for a friendly welcome and warm smile as anyone else.
- We can reframe a conversation with our boss or reports by saying, “I need your help”. “I need to understand.
- Sometimes just having a dialog with a person who is stressed out can help them sort the important from the urgent.
- As a servant leader it is even more challenging to maintain focus. You, by definition, need to help people when they come to you for help. But, you also need to set aside time to focus on strategic matters.
- Coach a pause to regroup. Did you ever see a fire hose with no one holding it?
Books mentioned during our conversation:
- Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High. Stephen R. Covey, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron Mcmillan, Al Switzler. 2002. ISBN-13:9780071401944
- Influencing Up by Allan R Cohen.