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What type of leader offers the most effective leadership?

Ken Blanchard believes corporate America is in desperate need of a different leadership role model. I couldn’t agree more.

Ken’s written 50 books with more than 90 contributing authors. His blockbuster, “The One Minute Manager,” has sold 13 million copies.

Ken has been a good friend for years. In fact, he’s the one who asked me to write a book with him before I decided to author “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” in 1988.

While most leaders think leadership is in your head, Ken thinks effective leadership starts in the heart. Your heart controls your motivation, your intent and your leadership character.

I invited Ken to speak to my Roundtable group of 30 CEOS. His memorable message was that the No. 1 leadership style around the world today is “seagull management.” He explained: “Managers might set goals and then disappear until you screw up. Then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everybody and fly out. They think that’s great leadership.”

He compared what he calls “self-serving leaders” to “servant leaders,” and mentioned three main differences:

The first difference is feedback. If you’ve ever tried to give negative feedback up the hierarchy of a self-serving leadership team, you know the difference. You get destroyed.

Self-serving leaders thrive in critical environments, whereas servant leaders prefer supportive environments.

Ken said: “I travel around the world, and I’ll say to people, ‘How do you know whether you’re doing a good job?’ The No. 1 response I still get is: ‘Nobody’s yelled at me lately.’”

He went on to say that, if he could only teach one thing, it would be to develop great relationships. He advised that, to develop great organizations, you have to wander around and catch people doing the right things, then praise them in front of everyone.

The second major difference is that self-serving leaders don’t want anyone else to look really good, while servant leaders really want to build leadership in their group. They have no problem with someone rising up. They don’t mind sharing leadership.

My philosophy is you’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit. I also believe that three opinions are better than two, and five are better than four.

The third difference is ego. “Self-serving leaders are caught in the trap that they think their self-worth is a function of their performance plus the opinion of others,” Ken said. “They have this score-keeping system. The only way they can keep going is they’ve got to get more. Their score-keeping centers around three things: accumulation of wealth, recognition/power and status.”

Ken advises that there is nothing wrong with accumulating money, getting recognized, or having some power and status.

“What’s wrong is if that’s who you think you are, because then your self-worth is tied up there, and you’re going to have to keep on performing,” he said.

Servant leaders define their self-worth differently. They are comfortable in their skin. Ken cautions that this doesn’t mean they don’t have some weaknesses. They know their position is not a given. Their job and possessions are on loan, and can be taken away at a moment’s notice.

Our egos can interfere in two ways, Ken cautions. One is false pride, when you think more of yourself than you should and your main job is to promote yourself. The other is self-doubt or fear, when you think less of yourself than you should.

The antidote for fear and self-doubt is self-pride and self-esteem, whereas the antidote for false pride is humility, which Ken believes is another important characteristic of a leader.

“People with humility don’t think less of themselves, they just think about themselves less,” he said. “That’s really a powerful thing.”

Mackay’s Moral: None of us is as smart as all of us.


Leadership Development
Leadership Development
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