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Leading by Serving—5 Essential Ingredients to Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow


Regardless of their formal title or position, people who want to be great leaders must embrace an attitude of service to others. That’s the message that Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller share in the 10thanniversary edition of their bestselling business book, The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do.

Leaders can find countless ways to serve the people they lead, and they should always be on the lookout for new and different ways to do this. However, there are at least five critical ways leaders must serve if they want to be as effective as possible.

  1. See the Future. The ability to envision and communicate a compelling picture of a preferred future. Leaders must help the people they lead see the destination, as well as the advantages of going there. Everybody needs to see who they are, where they are going, and what will guide their journey.
  2. Engage and Develop Others. Recruiting and selecting the right people for the right job while creating an environment where people wholeheartedly invest themselves in achieving the vision. Blanchard and Miller believe that engaging is a two-part proposition. The first part is to recruit and select the right people for the right job. That means to get the right players on the team. The second part is to do whatever it takes to engage the hearts and the heads of the people. Historically, the authors point out that many leaders have employed the hands and nothing else—and that’s probably where the term “hired hands” comes from. The best leaders engage the head and heart of their employees in addition to their hands.
  3. Reinvent Continuously. To possess a never-ending focus on improvement. Blanchard and Miller believe a leader must be willing to reinvent on at least three levels. The first is personal. Some key questions they recommend asking are: How am I learning and growing as a leader? and What am I doing to encourage others in my group to constantly learn and reinvent themselves? The second level of reinvention is systems and processes: How are we doing the work? How can we do it better? and What changes would enhance our ability to serve our customers and each other? The third type of reinvention involves the structure of the organisation. A recommended question to ask here is: What structural changes do we need to make to be more efficient and effective?
  4. Value Results and Relationships. The ability to generate positive, measurable results AND cultivate great relationships with those you lead. Leading at a higher level includes both results and relationships. The authors encourage leaders to put equal emphasis on both.  According to Ken Blanchard, “We traditionally teach people the important skills they need to get results: problem solving, decision making, and so on. Leaders need to put an equal emphasis on building relationships and connecting with people.  It’s both/ and, not either/ or.”
  5. Embody the Values. To live in a fashion consistent with your stated values. This is fundamental and ongoing, explain Blanchard and Miller. If a leader loses their credibility, their leadership potential will be greatly limited. Aspiring leaders must do more than articulate values—they must live their values every day.

How would you rate yourself in these five areas?  In your experience, which of these five attributes holds leaders back most often?

About the author:

David Witt

David Witt is a Consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies.
First published on Blanchard LeaderChat
8 September 2014