Are you a Servant Leader? Today, Chris and Perry talk about the challenge of leading and serving at the same time. Is it even possible?

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Perry Holley:    Welcome to The John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President at The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining. Just as a reminder as we get started, if you want to download the learner’s guide, if you want to leave us a question, maybe a comment, even if you have a leadership issue that you’re dealing with that you’d like for us to address in a future podcast, we’d love to do that. I want you to go to and you’ll be able to fill out a form, leave that information there-

Perry Holley:    We’ve gotten some great things lately and some great questions.

Chris Goede:     Great things. Yeah, great things and what I love about it is we actually got somebody that posted a question, a thought or an idea, we addressed it on a podcast and then we got a thank you follow-up email. So it’s working, we have the cycle working.

Perry Holley:    Yeah, it is our test to see if you really are-

Chris Goede:     That’s right. We do have one person listening to the podcast by the way, so that’s good. Well, today’s topic is titled, Servant Leadership. Can you lead and serve at the same time? What I love about this, is this coming straight from your heart right here. We’ve had several organizations over the last couple of months, talk about servant leadership, and have asked us to put together some content and you have done that and delivered it, and we’re getting great feedback. So super excited about that. And by the way, if you’re interested in that or for your team, if you’ll go to the URL that I mentioned on that form, let us know, and we’re more than happy to share that with you. Talk about what that could look like and be in touch with it.

So, in John’s 21 Laws, he states in the law of addition, “Leaders add value by serving others.” I’ve also heard Kouzes and Posner define servant leadership as, I love this, “A leader whose actions and motivations reflect a selfless commitment to a cause, an organization or their teammate.” And so I absolutely love where we’re going with this. This is really our DNA here at The John Maxwell Company about how we lead. Talk a little bit about, I know you’ve been immersed in the content, is that where this is coming from? What’s your desire in regards to talking a little bit more about this servant leadership?

Perry Holley:    It’s a fantastic study for me personally, because like you said, it’s our DNA, is what we really want to do is add value to others, which is about serving a lot of that. Serving them and serving the organization. But we don’t really teach it so much and thinking, can you teach someone to be a servant leader? And can you put, is there a skillset of a servant leader? I saw another definition I like, the servant leadership, this is on a guy named Jeffrey Foley that it is a decision to commit to others in a way that subordinates personal gain to the wider sense of responsibility. And it was funny in the first time we delivered this in early December last year. We kind of had a big discussion about. Leaders don’t really subordinate to a lot of, they’re not trained to subordinate, that’s not a word that you hear talk about leaders, and-

Chris Goede:     We might have just lost a bunch of listeners right there when you just said that.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. It really is where’re many of us have a problem, and not that we disagree with it, but it’s really hard to do, is because I’m running hard and fast and I’ve got a plan and I’m trying to bring the team along and I’m supposed to subordinate myself to them and to their causes and really is about putting others first and how you can make them successful.

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Chris Goede:     Yeah. And leaders, we’re taught to see more and before. And we’re like, “Wait a minute, you want us to kind of slow down, subordinate today?” No, we got to go in this direction. So it’s hard to be able to do that. Hey, I’m going to throw you a curve ball just for a minute before we dive into this.

Perry Holley:    Bring it.

Chris Goede:     Because you’ve been working on this content so much. A lot of times when people hear servant leadership, not only do they think about this as being kind of subordinate, but also soft, is a word. What is some of the feedback and even some of the training that you’ve taken some of the people through, what’s been some of the outcome? How have maybe you debunked that myth? I just want to start at the very beginning with this so that we don’t lose half our listeners on-

Perry Holley:    I heard a great line from Dave Ramsey, financial expert, and he’s said, “It’s servant leadership, not subservient leadership.” And I thought, really struck me that sometimes we think that a servant means weak. What I’m finding, if you’re going to be a true servant leader, you are actually a warrior for your people, and that you fight for them for the cause for your purpose, you’re knocking down walls and getting obstacles out of the way. You’re driving hard for results. These questions, even the question of this podcast today is that, can you even serve and lead at the same time? Is that even possible? Aren’t they opposites. So a lot the questions have been around, actually some companies say we want to talk about servant leadership, but can you call it something else?

What would you like me to call it? It is transformational leadership and that’s part of it. Is it empowering leadership? Well, that’s part of it. But it’s so much more than those words seem to embrace. But I am, one way I presented this organization in early December, the response was very positive and hey, we want more of that. We actually, we want, this was their senior team. So the CEO and his entire senior executive team, and they said, “We need this through the whole organization. We need to have this mindset.” It’s a culture comment, I believe.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I love that. And I’m just going to reemphasize, even some of the things that you just said that I, you heard and are feeling directly out of some of the training that’s going on. So when you think about from a true servant leader, it’s all about being other centered. And a lot of times it’s bosses or leaders are thinking about my agenda, my center, what’s going on there. And so we’ve really got to begin thinking about how do we focus on the other individuals on our team? How do we get that other center focused.

Here is another thing you gave me my notes that I absolutely love this where servant leaders empower. They don’t overpower like that right there is that tweetable? Is that how you say it? You can tweet that? But man, servant leaders in power, they don’t overpower the people on their team. And in order to empower them, you have to provide them with resources and tools. And so man, with your statement of it’s really about being a warrior for your team and for your people, and then it’s about empowering, not overpowered, I’m ready to go. I’m bought in.

Perry Holley:    Well, the challenge many of us face when aspiring to be this servant leader is generally, you’re more gifted to lead. The more gifted you are to lead, the greater the temptation it is to forego the serving side of thing. So you’re kind of driven to be that leader. I really like to encourage all the leaders listening to begin sprinkling a little servant with your leadership to see what happens. And you don’t have to declare a full shift to a new leadership style, a servant leadership style. But I believe people will notice when you begin to act in this way and be in higher levels of engagement. This is what servant leadership generally drives is that people feel that you value them over the goal necessarily that if you value them, you’ll get to the goal. If you empower them, you’ll get to the goal, so why not focus on the people and the empowerment side of that?

So let’s go through the five things-

Chris Goede:     Let’s do it.

Perry Holley:    And number one, that I think the first thing you could do to kind of sprinkle that through would be, move from trying to control people, to helping unleash their talent. And that sounds like I’m not trying to control people, but we tend to try to get our way and put people in a position to win. But when I thought that about unleashing their talent kind of is a different mindset for me.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And let me go back to the word control, because I love that you used the number five, this thing’s based off of what we believe is the foundation of increasing your influence of the 5 Levels of Leadership. The control part really comes at level one. And then there’s a very fine line when it comes to influence between what we like to say is the motive, whether or not you are manipulating people or whether or not you’re influencing people. And the motive of why you’re doing it is so important. And again, this servant leadership is a shift in how you’re delivering your message, your focus that can truly be the motive behind what you’re doing. And so instead of making sure that from a control and command standpoint and leveraging and pushing people, man, if you could learn step back a little bit and learn their strengths and their weaknesses, and then in their position, how do they utilize those? Not only to serve the team, but then to serve others.

And so again, just some thoughts, some ideas in order to shift, we don’t want you to kind of stay in this control mindset. We want to make sure that you’re beginning to think about it from a different perspective.

Perry Holley:    Number two, I love this. And there’s something we’ve talked about a little bit before a bit. Focus on the leading indicators of your business and not the lagging indicators of your business. We tend to focus on the scoreboard which is the results with the once we see that we make that number. It’s a lagging indicator. It was kind of late for that. I heard someone say, when I was doing my research on this, he said, “Don’t grade my paper, help me get an A.”

Chris Goede:     That is fantastic. That’s the third takeaway from this lesson already for me today. I love it.

Perry Holley:    I thought that was good too, because they’re thinking as a leader, even as a parent, sometimes I’m trying to, I’m grading the paper, I’m not trying to help you get an A. So, the lagging indicator, I mentioned the scoreboard tells us how we did, that’s grading the paper. The leading indicators, or the small things that people need to do and have done well, will accomplish the mission. That’s help me get the A.

So figuring out what are the leading indicators of the building a bit if he’s thinking about, if you had a sales team, salesperson, the leading indicators would be a number of prospecting calls, number of customer meetings, customer lunches, proposal set, all those are leading. I know if we get X number of these, we’ll end up with the scoreboard we want, but if I’m just focused on the scoreboard, by the time I get there, so I thought, why does that help a servant leader? It helps me as a servant leader, because if I focus on the leading, I’m actually focused on helping the people get to the A they want to get instead of dis grading at the end.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And traditional leadership really is about that metric driven, measuring the results. Now listen, it’s important. We need to know our KPIs of our business. We got to know our numbers, we got to know the metrics. I was on a call just last week with a very successful business man that runs a very large organization. And he was telling me that on a bimonthly basis, he’s on calls with his leadership team. They do not talk KPIs whatsoever. It is about the people, how we’re valuing them? What roadblocks are we moving? And so, we’re not paranoid and aren’t saying throw the metrics out, you got to have it.

But that can’t be the focus. The focus has really got to be more on how are we in helping, empowering the equipment our team to do the small things on a daily basis. Which is basically taking that quote you just talked about, “Don’t grab my paper, help me get an A.” And that’s what we’re talking about. What are we doing on a daily basis to serve, to help, to empower, to remove roadblocks for our team to be able to get an A?

Perry Holley:    And number three is, move from overpowering people to empowering people. I find this interesting. It’s a word that we talk about a lot in leadership. You hear it thrown around about empowerment. Are you empowering your people? I’m not sure everybody really knows how to do that. But the overpowering is just a little bit too much of me driving the person in the work they’re trying to do, where as an empowering person, it’s funny we have a seven step process. We teach for how to develop people. We don’t have time to go into it here, but it was, I had somebody challenge me on empowering is very dangerous. I said, “Well, you’re probably doing it wrong.”

And we tend to hire people, put them in a job and then tell them they’re empowered. And we forget the steps of, we hire people, put them in a job, we model what we want to see, we equip them with the skills, we develop them as the people. Then I can empower them. And thinking, we’re empowering without doing a lot of the upfront work. And servant leadership says, “I help you by modeling for you, equipping you, developing you, so that you become a strongly empowered person.”

Chris Goede:     Yeah. And most time traditional leadership, want to be out in front and want to use their power or their position level one influence. Or even maybe in their personality, at times. We’ve all probably have worked for leaders that maybe were not servant leaders, but had big time personalities. And that’s always out in front to get things done. And it’s because of them that they’re getting done. And we want to kind of turn that on Ted. We want to say as leaders in that type of environment to become a servant leader, how are we equipping and empowering our team to carry on without us? Maybe not even out in front of us. The best thing that could be happening is that. And the servant leaders like to see the things that are getting accomplished and getting done without them not because of them.

Perry Holley:    One of my favorite, I’ve been teaching it a lot lately is what would it take to be a leader that sees things work without you, instead of because of you. It happens a lot. So number four, can you move from focusing solely on company success to focusing on making each individual team member successful? And I think when this happens, the company will absolutely have success. But we’ve kind of hinted at it here that you’re so worried about the bigger picture, the bigger number, the bigger organizational impact that we don’t really think about each individual person, how can I make them successful? What would it take for me as a leader to get on board and help them to achieve their results? We’re going to get the big results.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. Have you ever been part of a team to where maybe the team accomplished their goal, but the individual or individuals did not. The feeling of those individuals that didn’t accomplish their goal, even though the team may have accomplished their goal is not necessarily an extremely positive one. Yes, are they glad the team won? I’ve been on winning teams before and played horribly, and I dwelled on the plane horribly. And I think where Perry’s going right here is, how do we make sure that our team members on the front end are very clear of what their roles and responsibilities are? And then how do we empower them to make sure they get the results that they need in order to accomplish that?

And when you’re doing that, and you’re focused on that level of individualism, the collective is going to win no matter what. But if you begin to focus on the team winning not necessarily the individuals winning, then you may not get both. But I think if you focus on getting all the individuals to win or be successful, and you do it by clearly defining their roles, responsibilities, and expectations, that you’ll be able to then accomplish a team win. And you’ll be able to do it through a servant leadership model.

Perry Holley:    And number five is that, don’t shy away from servant leadership because you think people would take advantage of you. This has come up a number of times that servant leadership is weak, people will take advantage of me, I won’t be the strong, powerful leader, I think people need me to be…And I find it to be just the opposite. And we mentioned it earlier when you threw me the curve ball, but it really is the answer of, are you a warrior for your people? Are you fighting for their success? Are you knocking down obstacles? Are you clearing the path? Are you getting them the skills and the development and the resources they need?

It’s hard work. It’s not an easy path for a leader to become the servant leader. But I believe if you do this, if you adapt this style of putting the people first, that you will not be taking advantage of. Actually people will engage with you at a much higher level. Your credibility as a leader will go up and you’ll severely influence your people, which are the three things we talked about at the top of the podcast, we want to do. I think the servant leadership model feeds all three of those.

Chris Goede:     Absolutely. Well, I can’t wrap it up much better than that right there in what you said, but I’ll make a statement which is, you can lead and serve your team at the same time. You absolutely can. You got to go about it the right way, but we gave you five, just initial thoughts and principles, but this is the way we believe you want to lead successfully for a long time for it to be sustainable. Then I would encourage you to lead from a servant leadership mindset.

Perry Holley:    Well, thank you, Chris and thank you all for joining us. That’s all today, but I want to remind you that if you want the learner guide, want to leave us a comment or a question, if you want to learn more about the 5 Levels or the 360° Leader, you can do all that at We always enjoy hearing from you and we’re always grateful that you would spend this time with us each week. Us all today, from The John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast

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