The 5 Beliefs Of Servant Leadership Canada
I have to be honest.
When we set out to build an organization that was going to help people become better leaders in organizations, we didn’t have the final destination in mind as opening the Canadian Servant Leadership Centre. We were happily going along, thinking that we would be perfectly content being a small boutique-style consulting firm that would make a difference in our corner of the world. And then someone mentioned those two words to us, almost as a throw-away in a conversation: servant leadership.We were intrigued, and it lead us to the little orange covered booklet by Robert Greenleaf, written almost 50 years ago.
That was it. That was all it took. We were hooked.
We’d found our purpose in leadership development and consulting – this was what we’d been looking for all along! As these things happen, it felt almost as if we didn’t find our calling, but rather that our calling had found us. After years of learning about the principles and philosophies of servant leadership, we felt we had a duty as leaders to continue to promote servant leadership, and develop those around us who shared the same beliefs as we had around people-centred leadership. We also saw the need to create a platform where we could engage the next generation of leadership in the exploration of this amazing leadership philosophy through a modern lens and approach.
We immersed ourselves in the teachings of others like Greenleaf, Behar, Barter, Autrey and Covey, but also learned from newcomers like Simon Sinek and Bob Chapman. We fused many of the thoughts and views of leaders in the servant leadership circles with some of our own experiences and beliefs that we’ve collectively gathered in over 50 years of leadership experience, and we formed the Canadian Centre for Servant Leadership, which we are proud to have launched recently and are now inviting you to be a part of.
One of the main reasons for this, our first official blog post, is to give you a chance to know who we are, what we believe in, and why you might want to accept our invitation to be a part of what we are building. Our hope is that these few points written from the heart will help you get to know us a bit better.
Our purpose, pure and simple, is to serve the people, those leaders out there that are under-valued and under-served, by connecting us all to a community of experts and peers that see the role of a leader as an unbelievable honour and responsibility.
What We Believe
Over the years, we have come to understand that our beliefs about leading others have been able to be refined into four key areas. These beliefs were engrained in our leadership styles far before we were introduced to servant leadership, but are in complete alignment with the philosophies that Greenleaf had developed in his essay.
The Servant as a Leader essay galvanized the things that we always believed were important in leadership, and helped us create clarity in our own actions, which we hope will also serve others in their attempt to better clarify their beliefs and values.
Belief 1: Servant Leadership Isn’t About You. But It’s All About You.
One of the main tenants of servant leadership is that servant leaders are servants first, and we wholeheartedly agree with that statement. However – we also know that leaders, true leaders, are those who have taken the time and energy to fully understand who they are, what their weaknesses and blind spots are, what makes them do what they do, and why they do it.
In other words- the first person you need to lead, is yourself. Once you lead yourself, you can lead others as a servant leader. We believe that one of the greatest things that you can do to improve your leadership abilities, and ultimately become a servant leader is to become self-aware and practice self-love.
Belief 2: Everybody Matters.
We are strong believers in the abilities and talents of everyone.
No matter who you are, no matter what your skills and abilities – you have meaning in a workplace, and your talents can contribute greatly to a better end result if you are given the opportunity to be your true, authentic self.
This belief has been strengthened in our work that we have done in the past creating supported employment positions for people with cognitive disabilities. The work that we have done on the inclusion of all people has shown us that not only can we all provide a meaningful impact to our organizational goals, but contribute to the overall culture and create greater understanding of diversity in our business partners and customers.
Belief 3: Aim For The Heart And Not The Head.
We’ve been led to believe that there is no room for emotion in the workplace and that leaders, in particular, are to hide their feelings and not act on their emotion, as it “clouds their judgement”. Getting emotionally attached to your people or your customer makes things harder when it comes to making tough decisions, and through an isolation of your feelings towards others, you make those cold, calculated decisions easier. After all, it’s just business right?
Trouble is- nobody wants to work for a place where they don’t feel like their leadership cares about them, and they sure don’t want to buy something from an organization that doesn’t care about their customer!
We’ve stopped caring about each other. We’ve labeled empathy and kindness as “weak” and “soft” leadership practices, and we’ve traded our interactions with people for engagements surveys and e-mail announcements. This is not the way to lead our people.
Belief 4: We lead for the 95%, not the 5%
The vast majority of organizations and leaders are set up to protect themselves from those who may seek to abuse their systems and practices, creating tight controls and restricting the way that people operate within the organization. By extension, most leaders tend to treat their people under the same belief of tight control and measured autonomy.
There is truth that there may be some out there who may take advantage of greater levels of autonomy or responsibility, but those people are few and far between (we call them the 5%). The majority of people (the 95%) , when given the opportunity to be themselves, think independently and act with what they see as the best of intentions for those they serve (your customers) are far more engaged and productive.
Our role as leaders is to create an environment for the 95% to be their best, and work with the 5% to ensure that they get on board, not the other way around.
Belief 5: We Act Intentionally.
Although not specifically outlined in servant leader literature, we think one of the single most important things that you can do as a servant leader is to act with intention. To act with intention is to show forethought, kindness and compassion for others. It gives you the opportunity to show that you have been paying attention to the needs of others and have made decisions, arrangements and even accommodations for them to suit their individual needs.
There is no doubt that everyone wants to feel valued. But we want our people (and yours too!) to feel special. Like their individuality is recognized, acknowledged and considered as part of your decision making process. If we were to speak honestly about this, the truth is that the bar is so unimaginably low for those of us who wish to act intentionally that even the smallest attempts at doing something from an intentional state is going to get you a massive reaction with those you lead.
How we feel we can serve.
Our goal to help the global servant leadership community grow and develop so that we can not only support those who are already believers and practitioners, but also inspire that next generation of leaders in an understanding of the potential of servant leadership for themselves. Our focus is to continue to challenge the status quo and demonstrate to others that there is a better way to lead people than what exists in most organizations today.
We intend to continue to unpack and expand the philosophies of Robert Greenleaf’s servant leadership principles, and hopefully build upon them as well as package them in a way that is more consumable for the modern leadership cohort. And we hope that that we can bring a wider level of interconnectedness between servant leaders and the servant leadership community as a whole. We have started to leverage our social media platforms and put ourselves out there as an organization that can be a part of sparking some dialogue and leading change within the leadership community as a whole, but also offering our services to organizations and individual learners as well.
We hope to get to know as many leaders as we can, and learn from you as well as help guide those of you who may be looking for more direction in the field of servant leadership. We are here to serve our community of leaders so that they may grow and develop into the best leader of people that they can be!
We are so humbled to be a part of the servant leadership community, and we invite you all to join us if you would like to help serve other leaders in growing and developing the servant leadership philosophy in our organizations, wherever they may be. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and on our website at servantleadership.ca.
It may not have been our intention to have arrived at this place as a destination, but we are so pleased to be here.