Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership

Outward Mindset: Think first of others interests
Leadership, at its core, is service to others.  A leader must have, what the Arbinger Institue calls an “outward mindset,” thinking first of others needs, challenges, and objectives.  If a leader acts selfishly, thinking only of his own self-interest, expect his followers to act in their own self-preservation.  Leaders, great leaders, serve others.  Quality leaders focus on those they serve.  Simon Sinek writes, “Leadership is not about being in charge.  Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” People follow leaders who show care and concern for them as a person.  People don’t want to feel used but rather want to feel that they are a part of something greater than themselves.  This sense of fulfillment comes from service.  

Put Others First
People want to be a part of the solution, not simply as a cog in the machine.  Liz Wiseman writes about effective leaders in the book “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.”   She states "Multipliers are leaders who look beyond their own genius and focus their energy on extracting and extending the genius of others, they get more from their people.  They don't get a little more; they get vastly more." Multipliers do not see themselves as the center and they don’t need to be the smartest in the room.  Putting others on the stage is more important.  “Some leaders seem to drain intelligence and capability out of the people around them. Their focus on their own intelligence and their resolve to be the smartest person in the room had a diminishing effect on everyone else.” When around a person who wants you to know how smart they are, the conversation is often stifled.  Others begin to look to the “know-it-all” leader and expect them to have the answer.  This reduces the overall effectiveness of all those in the room.  Great leaders talk less and listen more.  They want to really understand the issue being discussed and they show that they value all of the individuals in the room.

Get comfortable with Messy
Servant leadership can be messy because it relies on collaboration.  Leaders can be empowering by bringing people together to solve issues.  On the other hand, leaders can be directive leaders which allow you a clearer path to the end result.  You get a straight line to the end goal.  The problem with directive leadership is that you don’t explore the full depth of possibility that you do when you involve others in decision making. Empowering leaders push their followers by giving them a voice and sometimes that voice is in contrast to their own opinion.  Michael Fullan speaks of decisional capital and social capital.  Social capital is “working together in focused, specific ways to learn from others to accomplish something of value.”  Decisional capital is “the ability of individuals and groups to make expert diagnoses and identify corresponding solutions based on experience and expertise.”  Professionals need to have the freedom to make decisions.  It is incumbent upon leaders to allow those they lead to have the ability and freedom to make choices.  At the same time, it is incumbent upon those professionals to always learn and constantly collaborate.  Collaboration can be messy but for deep learning and sustainable practices, it is essential.   According to a study by Dr. Natalia Lorinkova at Wayne State University, directive leaders initially outperform empowering leaders.  However, their leadership does not last past themselves while empowering leaders will experience higher performance in the long run.  Directive leaders do not build sustainable systems. Directive leaders do not see value in the people that surround them. Instead, they see people as simply a means to their own ends.  They see their employees as subordinates who carry out their ideas.  They do not tap the full potential of those around them.

Empower Those Closest to Students
In education, we must work together to get the best results.  Decisions belong as close to the students as possible.  This means a fairly flat leadership structure.  Simon Sinek, in the book “Leaders Eat Last” writes one of his leadership lessons as “Lead the people, not the numbers.”  It is critical that you are deeply engaged with the people that you lead.  This seems obvious but have you heard a school or district leader talk about children like they are only a number?  Physical space and distance from students allow decisions to be made with the students as merely an abstract idea.  The more decision making power we can put in our teachers, the more our decisions will fit the needs of the children we serve.  This requires that administrators trust teachers.  To develop that deep trust, it is also critical that we are explicit with our vision and that we make sure our focus is on instruction and is student-centered.  Imagine a Principal who makes all the decisions for her teachers.  Now imagine a Principal that trusts her teachers to make nearly all of the instructional decisions.  Which one do you think is going to need a deeper belief and value in her teachers?  Which one do you think is going to invest in professional learning that assists teachers in frameworks that allow them to make the best instructional decisions?

Be Humble and Recognize the Value of Others

It is also critical to realize the importance of every member of a school staff.  Everyone brings something to the table.  A leader who listens and values others opinions will learn and grow to become a better leader.  A principal who has all the answers will be well served to listen to those around them.  As the Arbinger Institute writes in the book “The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves, “Leaders who succeed are those who are humble enough to be able to see beyond themselves and perceive the true capacities and capabilities of their people.”

Further Reading:
“Leaders Eat Last”-Simon Sinek
The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves-The Arbinger Institute
Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration-Simon Sinek
Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter-Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown
Coherence-Michael Fullan

Indelible Leadership: Always Leave Them Learning-Michael Fullan