According to Matt Tenney, author of Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom (Wiley, May 2014), when managers develop both the aspiration and the ability to more effectively serve and care for the people on their teams, these managers can become leaders people actually want to follow.
Let’s continue with Tenney’s 11 leadership lessons:
7. Make serving others a habit. Hardwiring servant leadership into your behavior is all about being mindful of seemingly small thoughts, decisions, and actions. For example, each time you’re about to interact with someone, ask yourself, How can I help this person? or, How can I contribute to this person’s happiness? You don’t need to have an immediate answer. Just adopting this attitude changes the dynamic of an interaction in positive ways, says Tenney. He also suggests starting each day by taking at least 5 or 10 minutes to contemplate the question, What can I do to better serve the people on my team today?
“The practice that made the biggest difference in my life is using the question, How will this help me to serve others? as a filter for decisions,” he shares. “Before I do something or consume something, I look at it from this perspective. This question helps me to waste less time pursuing things that don’t really matter, and has gradually made serving others the motivation for everything that I do.”
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8. Gain power by giving it away. A common misperception among leaders is that they need to be the ones coming up with all of the great ideas or the people making great things happen. The best leaders, though, are the ones who are able to harness the talent and intelligence of the entire team. You can do this by pushing power down to the lowest levels possible.
“This is a great way to serve the people on your team,” Tenney says. “Empowered people become much more engaged in their work. You can empower your team members by involving them in decision making to the greatest extent possible, ensuring that they truly feel heard. You can also give team members final decision authority on tasks within their area of expertise. Just make sure that you’ve previously communicated the organization’s core values so that they can guide decision making. Let your people know that as long as a decision doesn’t conflict with a core value, you trust that they’ll do the right thing.”
9. Inspire your team to greatness. One of the greatest gifts we can offer team members is the gift of inspiration. In Serve to Be Great, Tenney cites Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of a leader who had an extraordinary ability to inspire others. He did so by connecting people to a purpose far greater than themselves and by carrying out his work with impeccable character.
“An important role of a leader is to clarify not only what the team does for the customer, but what the team does to make the world a better place,” Tenney explains. “The leader must also ensure that each team member can see clearly how his or her work contributes to that larger vision and find ways to frequently remind team members of their purpose.
“You can also inspire greatness in others by working to develop your character so that you consistently do the right thing, even when the personal costs are very high,” he continues. “At some level, we all aspire to be a person who puts others first and always does the right thing. When we see someone else living in that way, it touches something deep inside us. We are reminded of who we can be. We are inspired.”
10. Measure the things that really matter. Most of us do a fairly good job of measuring our progress toward quantitative goals. In our personal lives, for instance, we measure progress toward checking items off of our to-do lists, losing weight, or making money. Likewise, large organizations measure things like sales numbers, expenses, and quarterly profits.
“What we need to do a better job of measuring is who we are and how well we treat each other,” Tenney asserts. “When we measure these things, we make a much better effort to improve in them. Remember, it’s who we are and how well we treat each other that drive long-term success. I suggest that you seek feedback on how well you as a leader live the values of the organization and how well you treat the members of your team. You should also measure those things in your team members. By doing so, you’ll make it clear that they’re important and that people must develop these areas to be considered for a leadership position.”
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11. Practice mindfulness to become the Ultimate Leader. Mindfulness training—a simple, science-based practice for training attention and developing emotional intelligence—was the foundation of the transformation that Tenney underwent in military prison. In Serve to Be Great, he describes how the practice of mindfulness helps leaders become the best they can be.
“Most people want to do a better job of serving and caring for the people around them,” Tenney comments. “Mindfulness training helps us close the gap between intention and action. The practice has been proven to be extremely effective at increasing resilience during stressful situations, which will allow you to live up to your ideals of serving and caring for others even when you’re under intense pressure to hit a goal. The practice also gradually makes kindness, compassion, and a spirit of service your natural response to the people around you.
“Beginning the practice is very simple,” he continues. “Just pick a simple activity like drinking water and make an effort to let go of thinking and be fully present for that activity. Commit to being mindful each time you drink water for a week. The next week, continue with drinking water and add another activity. After a couple of months, you’ll be practicing mindfulness during most of your day. You’ll notice that you’re happier, more resilient to stress, and more present for the people in your life.
“Being successful as a leader and living a meaningful, enjoyable life are not mutually exclusive,” concludes Tenney. “In fact, the two actually fuel each other. The very things that make life truly rich are the same things that create and sustain long-term success in both business and in life.
“The best news is that it’s all highly trainable,” he adds. “Any one of us can become an extraordinary, highly effective leader who enjoys going to work each day because we know that we’re making our world a better place.”
Matt Tenney is the author of Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, aMonastery, and a Boardroom. He is also an international keynote speaker, a trainer, and a consultant with the prestigious Perth Leadership Institute, whose clients include numerous Fortune 500 companies.
For more information, visit www.matttenney.com.
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