Tag Archives: shared leadership

Shifting from Servant to Shared Leadership

For years now, servant leadership has been touted as a seminal model for modern day management.  It’s easy to see why when you consider how a servant leader is characterized – as someone who “makes sure that other people’s highest priority needs are served first, who shares power, and who helps people perform as highly as possible.” What’s not to like about that?

Time to Move On
At the risk of spouting heresy, the notion of servant leadership – as affirming as it sounds – may have served its purpose and passed its prime as an enlightened form of workplace culture.  The reason for its attraction is rooted in an elemental aversion to old-school leaders who tend to hoard power and act like dictators.  Traditional command and control doesn’t work well for at least two obvious reasons.  First, it often crushes the spirit of the workforce. Second, it usually kills the initiative to pursue any semblance of innovation and improvement.

Let’s accept for a moment that most people these days are reasonably clear on that reality, and few managers are hard-nosed power mongers.  For the most part, they are trying to be more open and engaging – they just aren’t doing it particularly well.  With today’s workforce, though, the solution to those shortcomings does NOT lie in helping managers be better at “serving” the people who report to them.  It lies in abandoning the paternalistic notion that it’s a leader’s role to serve “lower level minions,” and shifting instead to a self-management model where leadership is shared with everyone serving one another as equal partners in a joint enterprise.

If that sounds too much like a socialist movement that’s out of step with hard-core capitalism, take a look at one company that has implemented shared leadership and self-management with astonishing success.  Located in California, The Morning Star Company is not just the world’s largest manufacturer of bulk tomato products.  When it comes to leadership and management methods, they are pace-setters and mold-breakers of the first order.

What’s the Difference?
For starters, the company has no managers.  None.  Nada.  Nowhere to be found.  All employees are interdependent parts of a genuinely collaborative venture that relies on each person taking individual responsibility for aligning his or her role with other co-workers and the needs of the overall business.  Here’s how Morning Star describes its self-management system on the company website:

“We envision self-managing professionals who initiate communication and coordination of their activities with fellow colleagues, customers, suppliers and fellow industry participants, absent directives from others. For colleagues to find joy and excitement utilizing their unique talents and to weave those talents into activities which complement and strengthen fellow colleagues’ activities. And for colleagues to take personal responsibility and hold themselves accountable for achieving our Mission.”

Mighty highfalutin words, right?  Sounds like the kind of thing a lot of companies aspiring to employ progressive management practices would claim about themselves. At Morning Star, though, it’s more than mere words.  The difference is apparent in the structures by which the enterprise is organized and the methods by which it operates.  It’s also apparent in the depth of employee sentiment about their company and the personal responsibility each person assumes for its success.

If you’d like to learn more about how Landes & Associates can help you implement systems and processes that foster greater shared leadership, click the link below for a short video clip.

# # #

Nurturing the leader in all of us.

Nurturing the leader in all of us
Leadership qualities can exist in all employees.

My 15-year-old daughter, Courtney, recently participated along with 130 other girls in the Junior Teen division of the National American Miss Pageant for the state of Missouri.  She has competed in pageants before, and despite some of my early reservations about her participation, I’ve seen some pretty special things come from her experience in those events.

This particular pageant system judges girls in four main areas: personal introductions about their background and future aspirations on stage in front of a large audience; one-on-one interviews with six judges; community service; and formal wear.

The audience doesn’t get to see the individual interviews, so we were eager to hear what the judges asked Courtney and how she responded.  Interestingly, one of her answers went right to the heart of a core concept that relates to employee engagement.

The need to lead for everyone.
Here’s what the judge asked: “If you could be principal (CEO in kids’ parlance) for one day in your school, what one thing would you change?”  I’ve always seen Courtney as a thoughtful person, but after all, she is 15, so I expected something along the lines of boosting school spirit, reducing homework, or improving the quality of the food in the cafeteria.  Instead, she responded with an answer that many organizations fail to appreciate when it comes to what is commonly called “empowerment.”

She told the judge she would create more leadership opportunities for all the students.  She went on to explain that she’s had the chance to serve as a student ambassador for the school, and it’s helped her grow in several ways.  She added that she believes every student should have an opportunity to lead in some way in their school or their community.  That’s because, she said, they’re all heading for college or somewhere else in “the real world,” and they need that kind of experience to succeed.  It would also help them be more actively engaged in their school.  She went on to give examples of how she would do that with multiple councils and students rotating in leadership roles.  Bottom line, everyone would have a chance to lead in some way.

The leadership-engagement connection.
Not surprisingly, my first reaction was one of pride and surprise at her insight.  Then after I thought about it, I asked myself a question.  Why is it, I wondered, that most organizations don’t grasp how vital it is to see and support every employee as a leader – especially if we want them tuned in, turned on and taking the initiative to go the extra mile to make their organizations the best they can be?

Perhaps it’s the high-sounding meanings we typically associate with the word “leadership” … or it’s our inability to devise ways that for employees to take the lead when they can.  Maybe we just don’t provide sufficient encouragement for people to feel okay about making the shift from following to leading.

Whatever the reason, shared leadership and engagement go hand-in-hand. Organizations that fail to grasp that notion will continue to be stuck in a paradigm that limits the potential for the leader in everyone to blossom and benefit their organizations – and themselves.

Oh … in case you’re wondering, Courtney won the crown (see pics below) – and we’ll be heading to California for the national pageant over Thanksgiving. I don’t know what kinds of questions the judges will throw at her this time, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be ready for whatever comes her way.





#    #    #

What do you think?  Share your comments and ideas below.