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The Servant

book cover image and link to amazon


Overall, I found this book a useful book with the usual number of golden nuggets of info. It had some strong religious content which can be good and bad depending on the person. The content and leadership details are great, and the upside-down org chart idea was gold. For me though, I was put off by the method of teaching the content... that of a group session where people contributed in a very precise way and the "teacher" would take their ideas and fully formulate them. The concept sounds great, but in practice I found it distracting and tiresome. There was a lot of:

Lisa spoke up, "I had XYZ perfectly fitting experience in my job." The teacher smiled, "Thank you for that Lisa, your XYZ experience helps me to further explain my next idea... ABC." "Wow, that was perfectly fitting and helping me understand, thank you teacher!"

Which after a while got in the way for me. I thought the most powerful idea in the book was the inverted pyramid. Traditionally orgs designed with leaders situationed higher in a pyramid than the people that work for them. This is a model where higher level people will boss around the lower level. Servant leadership is the other way. The top gets the work done, and the level beneath them tries to remove roadblocks and help them get their work done. It actually makes a lot of sense, but it's a major mindset shift. I think my current company is actually further along this path than other companies I've worked for and our High Performance Culture (HPC) initiatives are somewhat responsible for that.

servant image

Reading Notes

#NotesPotential Actions
1Management is what you do, leadership is the person you are.I like this quote, it definitely should help us keep in mind how we need to be leaders in our respective workstreams and for the rest of the business.
2Leadership is about leaving things better than when you found them.This holds true for people, their careers, business processes, etc. I think we can use this as a consistent guide in all we do.
3They constantly reference this idea of being "moved to speak" described as an anxious sensation, squirming in your seat, sweaty palms, etc.I thought this was interesting. I think we all have trouble finding a balance between listening and talking and this simple idea of knowing when you're moved to speak vs. you just want to speak could be helpful.
4You don't manage human beings. You manage things and lead people.I'm not sure this is true in practice, but it is certainly true in the ideas that should be in place.
5There was a neat passage on rebellion and how teenagers often rebel due to being "powered around" too much. He feels its the same in business. Employee unrest is often rebellion in disguise. He feels using power on people can work in the short term, but you will pay a heavy price.I feel like this extreme hierarchical structure within our company could be part of this. Titles and the org chart are pushed so hard each day, especially with the unbalance between the UK and US from a title perspective.
6When we are getting things done through people, there are always two dynamics... the task and the relationship. We often lose the second...This is a great way to think about it. I'm really bad about this one. Sometimes I'll push to get a task done and lose the fact that there will be a lasting relationship there whether you want to think about it or not.
7Promoting your best people... can lead to problems. If we promote our best fork lift driver to supervisor, we have two new problems. We've got a lousy supervisor and we've lost our best fork lift driver.This, I feel, illuminates the reasons we need the new taxonomy to be solid. We don't want our best contributors being forced into management because it's the only way to get promoted. We also can't leave boarding and promotions turned off this long... people will leave.
8TrustHe mentions that trust between people and leaders is the biggest key. Without it, it is difficult if not impossible to maintain a good relationship.
9Feelings of Respect must be aligned with actions of respectThis one is interesting. We might often say one thing because it's the right thing to say... but if our actions don't back it up then we're showing we feel something different than we say. At its core, that is dishonest and degrades trust.
10Contrary Opinions. It's important to keep and foster people with constructive but contrary opinions. If you keep removing them, you'll be just as likely to run the ship aground as you think they would be.This is important. Many in our team are responsible to move fast and head the right direction, but if we do it head-down and not listening we could go off course and not even know it.
11The only person you can change is yourself.We really can't change people or change their behaviors. We can only set up the right conditions to convince them to change. This is subtle and I think we all know it internally, but it's important to remember.
12They discuss praxis which isn't a word I've heard used in this context. Your thoughts, and feelings drive your behavior. But the opposite is also true, your behaviors drive your thoughts and feelings.This goes back to number 9 above. If you set your behaviors to be correct, your feelings and thoughts will often come along for the ride.

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