Shifting From Manager to Servant Leader – A Journey of Exceptional Leadership

In my numerous interactions with professionals across various fields, I often pose a question that invariably elicits agreement from everyone: “Have you ever had a bad manager or leader in your career?”

It’s always a 100% resounding “yes!” The room fills with shared experiences and anecdotes of leadership gone awry.

However, when I flip the question and ask, “How many of you consider yourselves to be bad managers or leaders?” the room falls into silence (with a few chuckles), punctuated by puzzled looks and hesitancy. No hands are raised, no affirmations are voiced.

This stark contrast in responses sheds light on a pervasive disconnect in our perceptions of leadership. No one sets out with the intention of being viewed as a bad leader, yet the prevalence of such experiences suggests a gap between intention and perception.

What, then, separates exceptional leadership from mediocrity? The answer often lies in the misunderstanding and misapplication of the roles of a manager versus a leader. In this exploration, let’s delve into the nuances of this dichotomy, unravel the essence of real leadership, and offer actionable insights to guide the transition from being merely a manager to evolving into an incredible leader.

1. Understanding the Distinction: Manager vs. Leader:

A manager holds a title, but a leader holds respect. It’s really that simple. Those who rely solely on their titles to assert authority often find themselves justifying their roles and struggling to gain long-term respect. If you have to say you’re in charge, you’re not!

Phrases like “I am in charge here” are telltale signs of leadership that leans on position rather than influence. On the other end of the spectrum, leaders who avoid confrontation and seek friendship over respect may be “liked” but not truly respected. Striking the right balance is key to effective leadership.

2. Embracing Servant Leadership:

Servant leadership is about serving others and empowering them to reach their full potential. It involves self-responsibility, intuition, perseverance, and effective communication. Servant leaders prioritize the needs of their followers, foster trust, and create an environment conducive to growth and innovation. Understanding and embodying the principles of servant leadership can help leaders gain the respect and willingness of their followers. But this also requires an investment to understand what’s most important to each person that falls under your responsibility. We tend to lead based on our own bias and not what is required for that person.

3. Personalized Motivation:

Recognizing that everyone has unique challenges and communication styles is crucial. Servant leaders tap into the individual preferences of their followers to motivate them effectively. This involves active listening, empathetic communication, and tailored encouragement. There’s a simple trick you can use to uncover the unique needs of each person.

Focus on responding to comments and questions with additional curious questions. I mention “curious” because you’re not interviewing them nor do you want them to feel it’s an interrogation. Here’s an example: “I am really looking forward to growing within the organization.” Instead of just acknowledging this seemingly great comment, what does it mean? So, your response would be: “That’s amazing! Curious, tell me more about that?” Once they answer you can build on that with more direct questions to identify the reasons behind it. How do they define growth? What timelines? What outcomes would they like to see from the growth? You get the idea.

The more you uncover their dominant reason for growth you can create a plan for them. Not to mention you’ll understand their “why”…that’s the driving force behind real leadership.

By addressing the specific needs and aspirations of each team member, leaders can foster a sense of belonging and commitment, driving collective success.

4. Three Takeaways for Exceptional Leadership:

a) Cultivate Self-Responsibility: Strive for personal growth and well-being to better serve others. Tie back their own “why” to the job so it’s more than just showing up for a paycheck.

b) Harness Intuition and Perseverance: Develop a keen sense of intuition balanced with rational thinking. Let people know it’s okay to fail. Let them know to embrace perseverance, learn from failures, and adapt your approach to fulfill unmet needs.

c) Master Effective Communication: Communicate your vision clearly and listen actively. But many times that’s subjective. Remember that 55% of communication is body language and 38% is tonality. That’s huge in leadership because people need to feel your leadership. People are always watching what you’re doing and not doing. It may not be fair, but you’re being judged not on intent rather actions. So pay close attention to how you’re communicating non-verbally and how you “say things”.

Becoming an exceptional leader involves more than just holding a title; it requires a shift in mindset and approach. The most common trait I see working with successful leaders is the ability to adapt and adjust their leadership.

Your flexibility to meet your peers where they currently are is something most Leaders just are not capable of doing. By understanding the principles of true servant leadership and applying personalized motivation strategies, leaders can earn the respect and commitment of their followers. The journey from manager to servant leader is challenging but immensely rewarding, paving the way for a positive and impactful leadership experience.

The Power of Responsibility and Authority: A Leadership Imperative

In the world of leadership, there are countless theories, strategies, and buzzwords. Yet, one concept stands out for its simplicity and profound impact: “You can’t outsource responsibility without authority.” This principle, introduced by my business partner, Tony Leone. It’s a game-changer for leaders and those aspiring to lead. Let’s delve into its significance and how you can harness its power.

1. Understanding the Concept

At its core, the idea is straightforward: If you entrust someone with a responsibility, you must also grant them the authority to execute it effectively. Imagine a ship’s captain who’s responsible for the safety of the vessel but has no authority over the crew. The ship would be in chaos. Similarly, in a business setting, if a team leader is accountable for a project’s success but can’t make crucial decisions or hold team members accountable, the project is set up for failure.

2. Three Actionable Steps to Implementing the Principle

  • Empower Decision Making: When you assign a task or project, ensure the individual or team has the decision-making power they need. This doesn’t mean they operate without oversight, but they should have the autonomy to make day-to-day decisions without constantly seeking approval.
  • Establish Clear Boundaries: While granting authority, it’s essential to set clear boundaries. Define what decisions they can make independently and which ones require higher-level approval. This clarity prevents overreach and ensures everyone is on the same page. I know this seems to be a “no brainer,” but so many leaders have a belief they’ve done this, but fall short.
  • Hold People Accountable: With authority comes accountability. Ensure there are mechanisms in place to review decisions, provide feedback, and if necessary, course-correct. This creates a culture of responsibility where individuals know they’re trusted but also answerable for their actions. But this isn’t about “you’re wrong and I am right” either. This is more about a collaborative approach around understanding how you can course correct for the next challenge.

3. The Tangible Benefits for Leaders

When leaders actively apply the “responsibility with authority” principle:

  • Organizational Agility: Companies can adapt faster to market changes. For instance, a marketing team with the authority to tweak campaigns in real-time can respond swiftly to customer feedback, ensuring better engagement.
  • Enhanced Team Morale: Employees in a tech startup, when given the authority to choose their software tools, feel a direct sense of ownership over their projects. This empowerment often translates to increased job engagement and reduced turnover. (which is the single largest costs associated with organizations)
  • Improved Project Outcomes: Consider a finance team responsible for quarterly budgeting. If they have the authority to allocate funds based on real-time data without waiting for layers of approval, the company can capitalize on timely opportunities, leading to better financial performance. Your role isn’t transactional. In fact, no role is within any organization. We deal with humans and that’s the point. Leadership is the human element and management is driven by data. So don’t confuse “project outcomes” with the person.

True leadership transcends just management. It’s about fostering an environment where any employee feels confident to negotiate deals, where a customer service rep can pivot based on customer feedback, and where a content creator has the autonomy to craft messages that resonate. As you evaluate your leadership style, ask yourself: Are you setting your teams up as mere executors, or are you empowering them as decision-makers? Tony Leone’s insight remains pivotal: “You can’t outsource responsibility without authority.”

Navigating Business Success: Timeless Strategies Every Leader Should Know

In the dynamic world of business nowadays, certain principles remain timeless. Whether you’re leading a digital startup or a global enterprise, the essence of success often boils down to two things: effective communication and leveraging the potential of your team. Let’s dive into these principles and explore some transformative strategies that can elevate any business.

Strategy 1: Transparent Talk Sessions

Every business, regardless of its size or industry, thrives on clear communication. When new processes or standards are introduced, it’s easy for misunderstandings to creep in, leading to inefficiencies.

How to Implement Transparent Talk Sessions

1. Consistent Team Huddles: At The Constance Group we do daily expectation meetings to ensure there’s clarity on action items. These huddles shouldn’t just be about work updates; they should also reinforce the company’s ethos. Celebrate milestones, share motivational anecdotes, and address concerns in an open environment.

2. Collaborative Brainstorms: Every once in a while, invite team members to brainstorming sessions. This inclusive approach ensures that strategies are well-rounded, taking into account diverse perspectives. It also fosters a sense of belonging and ownership among employees. At the end of the day “we think we think we know” and it doesn’t lend itself to growth. Be open to hear a crazy new thought because it may be exactly what you need.

Remember, while inclusivity is a strength, having a framework to resolve conflicting ideas is equally important.

Strategy 2: Talent Optimization Initiatives

Every individual in your team is a reservoir of unique skills and talents. Tapping into these can significantly propel your business forward. Instead of sidelining someone who might not fit a particular role, think about where their strengths can be best utilized. It’s so easy to “label” someone because they are different from you or your views. Remember, this isn’t Junior High. Some of the strongest organizations I’ve seen have a juxtaposition of personalities on a team.

Steps to Kickstart Talent Optimization Initiatives:

1. Positional Change: If someone’s performance isn’t up to the mark, it might be a role mismatch rather than a capability issue. Consider repositioning them within the organization where their skills can shine.

2. Project Ambassadors: Assign employees as Ambassadors for specific projects or departments. This approach not only boosts their confidence but also drives innovation. When individuals feel they’re at the helm of something, they’re more inclined to give it their all.

For these initiatives to bear fruit, ensure that every team member understands the broader objectives of the company. This alignment is crucial for decision-making that resonates with the company’s goals.

The journey to business success is paved with effective communication and the ability to recognize and harness individual strengths. We all “know” this, but how good are we at making it part of our daily ethos?

By embracing Transparent Talk Sessions and Talent Optimization Initiatives, you can navigate the challenges of the corporate world with confidence and agility. At the end of the day, the strength of a business lies as much in its team as it does in its leader.

Stop Following the Leader: To Be a best, You Must Lead the Leader

Have you ever felt stuck in your career, waiting for your boss to take the initiative and guide you? Well, it’s time to flip the script and shake things up. Instead of waiting for your leader to lead you, why not take charge and lead the leader? Sounds intriguing, right? I want to explore the concept of Growth Leadership and how it can benefit not only you but also your organization as a whole.

Part 1: Why Should You Lead the Leader?

To be a successful follower, you must possess the ability to lead your leader effectively. Growth Leadership, as we’ve defined earlier, is the practice of actively interacting with those who guide you. It’s about bringing fresh insights to the table, identifying challenges or opportunities that others may not see, and addressing potential blind spots your supervisor may have.

The benefits of Growth Leadership are numerous:

  1. Enhanced Communication: By engaging in open and honest conversations with your leader, you’ll improve communication channels and foster a more transparent work environment.
  2. Increased Collaboration: When you take the initiative to involve your leader in your team’s activities and share your observations, you create opportunities for collaborative problem-solving and idea generation.
  3. Empowered Decision-Making: By providing your leader with valuable insights and information, you enable them to make better-informed decisions that can positively impact the entire organization.
  4. Personal and Professional Growth: By stepping up and taking charge, you demonstrate your leadership potential, which can lead to greater responsibilities, promotions, and overall career advancement.

Part 2: Break the Cycle – From Hesitation to Initiation

So, how do you transition from a passive follower to an Growth Leader? It all starts with breaking the cycle of hesitation, presumption, grumbling, and evasion. Instead, embrace a new approach that includes initiation, inquiry, communication, and welcoming.

Here are four simple steps to get started:

  1. INITIATE: Reach out to your supervisor and request a meeting. Be proactive, and don’t wait for them to come to you. Show them you’re eager to contribute and collaborate.
  2. INQUIRE: During your meeting, ask questions to better understand their perspective and priorities. Inquire about how you can improve communication with them and support their goals.
  3. COMMUNICATE: Share your observations and ideas. Offer constructive feedback and suggest ways your team or organization can improve its operations. Be honest, respectful, and solution-oriented.
  4. WELCOME: Encourage your leader to get involved with your team’s activities. Invite them to attend team meetings or brainstorming sessions. Create opportunities for them to engage with your team and build stronger relationships.

Part 3: Embrace Your New Role

As you step into the world of Growth Leadership, remember that this is an ongoing process. It requires constant effort, reflection, and improvement. Be patient with yourself, and don’t be discouraged by setbacks or resistance from others.

Here are some tips to help you embrace your new role as an Growth leader:

  1. Cultivate a Growth Mindset: Be open to learning and growth. Embrace challenges, take risks, and learn from your mistakes.
  2. Seek Feedback: Regularly ask for feedback from your leader, peers, and team members. Use it as an opportunity to refine your leadership skills and adapt your approach.
  3. Build Trust: Establish strong relationships with your leader and team members by demonstrating integrity, reliability, and transparency.
  4. Stay Curious: Keep learning and expanding your knowledge in your field. Be open to new ideas and approaches that can help you grow as a leader and contribute to your organization’s success.

Part 4: Encourage a Culture of Growth Leadership

Now that you’ve embraced your role as a Growth Leader, it’s time to spread the word and create a culture that encourages and supports this type of leadership throughout your organization. Here are some ways to promote Growth Leadership among your colleagues and team members:

  1. Share Your Experiences: Talk about your journey towards Growth Leadership with your peers and team members. Share the lessons you’ve learned, the challenges you’ve faced, and the benefits you’ve experienced.
  2. Lead by Example: Demonstrate Growth Leadership in your everyday actions and interactions. Show your colleagues and team members how to lead the leader by actively engaging with your supervisors and seeking opportunities for collaboration.
  3. Offer Support: Encourage and support your colleagues and team members as they embark on their own Growth Leadership journey. Offer guidance, share resources, and celebrate their successes.
  4. Foster a Safe Environment: Create an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas, and feedback. Encourage open communication, constructive feedback, and active listening.

Part 5: Overcoming Obstacles and Resistance

As you promote Growth Leadership within your organization, you may face some resistance or challenges.

Here are some strategies for overcoming these obstacles:

  1. Address Concerns Head-On: Be prepared to address concerns or objections from your leader or colleagues. Clearly communicate the benefits of Growth Leadership and address any misconceptions or fears they may have.
  2. Be Persistent: Change takes time, and you may not see immediate results. Stay committed to your Growth Leadership journey and continue to demonstrate its value through your actions.
  3. Build Alliances: Seek out like-minded colleagues and team members who share your passion for Growth Leadership. Together, you can work towards creating a culture that embraces this approach to leadership.
  4. Stay Positive: Maintain a positive attitude and keep focused on the potential benefits of Growth Leadership. Celebrate small wins and progress, and use setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning.

In today’s ever-changing business landscape, it’s more important than ever for professionals to take charge and lead the leader. By embracing Growth Leadership, you’ll not only improve communication, collaboration, and decision-making within your organization, but you’ll also set yourself up for personal and professional growth. So, stop following the leader and start leading them instead! With persistence, patience, and a little bit of courage, you’ll soon see the incredible impact Growth Leadership can have on your career and your organization.

Leadership is a lot like gardening

Just as a gardener carefully tends to their plants, a leader must carefully tend to their team to help them grow and thrive. And just like a garden, a team’s culture can either flourish or wither based on how well it’s nurtured.

If you’re a leader looking to improve your organization’s culture, here are five tips to help you get started:

1. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
In any garden, you need to know what you’re growing and what you want to achieve. The same is true in a team setting. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to set clear goals and expectations for your team. This helps everyone understand what they’re working towards and how they can contribute.

When setting goals, be specific and measurable. Don’t just say “we want to improve customer satisfaction” – set an expectation like “we want to increase our customer satisfaction scores by 10% by the end of the quarter.” This gives your team a clear target to aim for.

And when setting expectations, be clear about what behaviors you want to see. If you want your team to be more collaborative, don’t just tell them to “work together.” Instead, define what collaboration looks like, such as “team members actively seek out others’ opinions and ideas.” You never want to “assume” others define your expectations the same.

2. Provide Support and Resources
No garden can flourish without the right tools and resources. The same is true for a team. As a leader, it’s your job to provide your team with the support and resources they need to be successful.

This could mean providing training or mentorship to help your team members develop new skills. Or it could mean investing in tools or technology to help them be more efficient.

But providing support isn’t just about giving your team things – it’s also about being there for them when they need help. Make sure you’re available to answer questions and provide guidance, and be willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside your team when needed.

3. Encourage Creativity and Innovation
Gardens are full of surprises – sometimes a plant grows where you didn’t expect it, or a new flower blooms in an unexpected color. The same can be true in a team setting. Encouraging your team to think creatively and take risks can lead to new ideas and innovations.

To encourage creativity, create a culture where it’s safe to share ideas, even if they’re unconventional or initially seem unrealistic. Hold brainstorming sessions or team-building exercises to help your team members think outside the box.

And when your team does come up with new ideas, be open to them. Even if an idea doesn’t seem feasible at first, it could spark a different, better idea.

4. Recognize and Reward Success
In a garden, it’s important to celebrate the blooms as they appear. In a team setting, it’s important to celebrate successes as they happen. Recognizing and rewarding your team’s achievements can motivate them to keep working hard.

This could mean giving bonuses (they don’t have to be monetary) or recognition to team members who go above and beyond. Or it could mean publicly acknowledging their hard work and contributions at team meetings or company-wide events.

But recognition doesn’t have to be formal or expensive. A simple “I appreciate you” or a shout-out in a team email can go a long way in making your team members feel appreciated.

5. Lead by Example
Finally, just like a gardener must lead by example by showing their plants how to grow, a leader must lead by example to show their team how to succeed.

This means modeling the behaviors you want to see in your team. If you want your team to be more accountable, take ownership of your own mistakes and work with your team to find solutions and prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future. If you want your team to be more communicative, make sure you’re communicating clearly and openly with them.

Leading by example also means being transparent and honest. Be upfront with your team about what’s going on in the organization, and don’t shy away from tough conversations. Your team will appreciate your honesty and trust you more if they feel like you’re being open with them.

And finally, leading by example means being willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work alongside your team. If your team is working late to meet a deadline, be there with them. If there’s a big project that needs to be done, don’t just delegate it – be a part of it.

Improving your team’s culture isn’t something that happens overnight – it takes time, effort, and patience. But by setting clear goals and expectations, providing support and resources, encouraging creativity and innovation, recognizing and rewarding success, and leading by example, you can create a culture that your team will thrive in. And just like a well-tended garden, a thriving team culture will produce beautiful results.