Language Of Servant Leaders

The role of a  great leader is not to give greatness to human beings, but to help them extract the greatness they already have inside them.

Quote attributed to J. Buchan

I have been a fan of the servant leader paradigm since my initial exposure to Stephen Covey early in my career.  Stephen came with his partner Roger Merrill to lead training on the 7 Habits of highly Successful People.  I had an opportunity to chat with both Stephen and Roger over the 3-day seminar and it was a profound experience.

If you haven’t read Stephen’s books find time to do so.  The counsel is timeless and you will find it a worthwhile experience.

One of the things Stephen spoke about was the importance of listening to the language/behavior used by management as a way to understand if servant leadership is the norm or the exception in an organization.  I was digging through my notes from that meeting and found this list of words/behaviors to use in that assessment.  I thought you might like to know what the words/behaviors are.  You can use this list to assess your own organization.  Just create a table of the words/behaviors and over a 3-day period place a checkmarks next to each word/behavior every time you hear/observe a manager use it.  Then add up the checks and you can better judge if servant leadership is the norm or exception in your organization.

Words to UseWords to Lose
WeI
EmpowerDominate
SynergizeManipulate
TrustFear
CommitmentControl
Our WayMy Way
InclusiveExclusive
OrganicMechanistic
UnityUniformity
OrganizationRegulation
NurtureFix
EffectivenessEfficiency
ProgrammerProgram
InvestmentExpense
PrincipleTechnique
SynergyCompromise
AbundanceScarcity

Even if you do not use the list to conduct an assessment of your organization, you can use it for some introspection.  How close are you to being a servant leader?  Have you adopted a paradigm of helping people be successful or are you focused less on people development and more on project results?

Admittedly, servant leadership is just one approach to leading.  I happen to think it is the best approach, but it is certainly not the easiest.  If you opt to pursue this path you may find a good deal of resistance from your management (particularly if you work in a command:control structure).  But my own experience suggests it is more professionally rewarding to nurture people while you deliver results.

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