Gary Hamel , in his brilliant speech mentions one of the greatest inventions of 20th century – management. There is no intention from my side to kill such a great achievement of humankind, since it is still needed somewhere, I guess. However, in creative environments, like SW development, the point for leaders is to connect the system thinking with people empowerment, continuous improvement, (un)learning and many more. There we talk about the term that some people don’t get well along with – the term of ‘servant leadership‘. This is a challenge for ‘hardcore managers or as Gary Hamel mentions – industrial-age, traditional managers. Already in 1970 Robert K. Greenleaf was talking about the servant leadership. He has nicely collected his thinking within the “Servant Leadership“ book. “Servant” considers a humble behavior style that enables people to make decisions with the full empowerment. It fosters people’s emancipation and self-confidence. It makes them feel important and valuable contributors whose positive attitude generates a bigger value. I dare to call it agile leadership today.
In the hierarchical organizations being servant is not an easy task – it means both to serve towards people you lead and towards management from the top. The top management is rarely of servant type, but rather with the heroic attitude (exemptions humbly excused). There is a prevailing opinion that the lead and management come from the bosses being responsible for the employees’ performance. In the same time they feel fear that they should be seen as to be doing more. Even though they would say “less is more” they will continue to respond to their fears rather than the changes that need leading. Under this ‘squeeze’, it is a skill of a leader to stay consistent and positive in order to influence both sides and make space for improvement of his ‘service’.
When you would talk about this, you may receive the question like I did:
Are you trying to be the leader who serve, or the servant who lead?
Getting it on stage it was a bit confusing to answer, but what is the difference at the end!?