First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Until There are More Women in Positions of Leadership and Influence… – More Reflections Prompted by Lean In

{I presented my synopsis of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg yesterday at the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare. This book club deals with issues of social justice, poverty, equality. Lean In was a good choice. This post is prompted by the after-synopsis discussion}.

Even in places where equality seems to be taken seriously, women are still behind…

Lean InHere are short excerpts from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg:

Women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States in the early 1980s. 
Despite these gains, the percentage of women at the top of corporate America has barely budged over the past decade.
A meager twenty-one of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
Women hold about 14 percent of executive officer positions, 17 percent of board seats, and constitute 18 percent of our elected congressional officials.
…even worse for women of color, who hold just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats, and 5 percent of congressional seats.
By 2010, women had protested, fought, and worked their butts off to raise that compensation to 77 cents for every dollar men made.

I was speaking to an associate minister in a large Methodist church – a female associate minister. She is gifted; talented, a fine preacher. Methodists seem to take gender equality seriously. I asked her how many of the larger, influential Methodist churches have female Senior Pastors (the “head minister” in such organizations). Her answer – practically none. Even though a large and growing percentage of ministers in the denomination are now women.

The progress is slow…

This underrepresentation at top levels is evident in most arenas, and if you will keep attuned to it, you will read that women are underrepresented in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the heads of important committees in Congress… everywhere.

And, that’s just the “equality” issue here in our country. Throughout the world, there are places where girls and women are abused, raped, killed… It is seemingly so common place that we almost “ignore” the news. In such places, forget equality, it’s almost survival that is the issue.

I suspect that it will take a lot of women, in higher positions of authority and responsibility, throughout the world, in business and in government, to begin to be able to exert enough pressure to bring about needed change in such places where the “gender” issue can practically be an issue of life and death.

I don’t have a solution to any of this. I have presented synopses of a number of books calling for the rise of women into greater positions of leadership and responsibility in the workplace – books like Lean In, and Womenomics, and Knowing Your Value, and others.

But, if we pay attention, we see that the progress on this front is so very slow. And so, the books need to continue to be written, and women and men should read them. You know the old formula – consciousness raising that leads to action…

After Lean In was published, John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco, after reading the book. required every senior to manager read it, and then actively promote women into senior management positions. If only a critical mass of CEOs in such influential positions took the same steps…


Footnote: in this month’s New York Times Business Books Best Sellers List, two of the ten books are written by women. We have presented one of the two at the First Friday Book Synopsis, #GIRLBOSS, which Karl Krayer presented. We have presented synopses of most of the best selling business books written by women over the last few years. But, in business books, as elsewhere, women authors are underrepresented in the best sellers lists.

You can purchase my synopsis of Lean In, Womenomics, and Knowing Your Value, and Karl’s synopsis of #GIRLBOSS, at our companion site, Each synopsis comes with our multi-page, comprehensive handouts, and the audio recording of our presentations.

Friday, November 21, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Lin O’Neill Speaks at December 5 Book Synopsis

We are excited about our guest speaker at the December 5 First Friday Book Synopsis.  Substituting for me will be Lin O’Neill, who has presented at our synopsis several times.  Lin O'Neill Picture

Lin is an effective and innovative consultant, trainer, speaker and coach with significant experience in strategy development and implementation, entrepreneurship, transition planning, cross-functional teams, change management and process improvement.

V is for Vulnerable CoverThe book she presents is a best-seller by Seth Godin, entitled V is for Vulnerable:  Life Outside the Comfort Zone (New York:  Portfolio, 2012).  V is for Vulnerable looks and feels like a classic picture book. But it’s not for kids, it’s for hardworking adults. It highlights twenty-six of Seth Godin’s principles about treating your work as a form of art, with illustrations by acclaimed cartoonist Hugh MacLeod.

Seth Godin PictureGodin is the author of 17 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow.

In addition to his writing and speaking, Seth is founder of, a fast growing, easy to use website. His blog (which you can find by typing “seth” into Google) is one of the most popular in the world. Before his work as a writer and blogger, Godin was Vice President of Direct Marketing at Yahoo!, a job he got after selling them his pioneering 1990s online startup, Yoyodyne.

In 2013, Godin was inducted into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame, one of three chosen for this honor.

Don’t miss this synopsis.  You can register by clicking here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six Questions to Discuss with Your Leadership Team – Prompted by This Era of Perpetual Innovation

Sometimes, you just need to pull your team aside for a good discussion…

So, I was asked to help come up with some discussion questions about this era of perpetual innovation. These might be useful for any leadership team “let’s think about things” discussion.

#1 – How have our personal lives changed because of new technology? What changes do you think are coming “right around the corner?”

#2 – How have our work habits changed because of new technology? What changes do you think are coming next/soon?

#3 – What kinds of jobs are in danger of being lost/replaced by technological innovations?

#4 – How does the “always on” technological reality endanger work-life balance issues?

#5 – What are our customers needing from us next that technological innovation might help us deliver in a better way? In other words, where/how do we need to innovate by adapting new technology?

Where is your leadership team, your company, on this chart -- Click on image for full view

Where is your leadership team, your company, on this chart? — Click on image for full view

#6 – So, if this is truly a perpetually innovating age, especially with technology innovation, is our company innovative enough? (Are we an innovative company? An “early adopter” company? An early majority, or a late majority company? A “laggard” company? Why do you put us in the category you put us in?)

You could probably come up with six better questions.  Or, at least, add to or edit these.  But, the discussion could definitely be valuable.  And, I’ve got a hunch that this is a discussion to have on a pretty regular basis.

What questions would you use for your discussion?

Thursday, November 20, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

The News is Filled with Stories of Incivility, and Worse – A Sad Reminder from M. Scott Peck

A-World-waitingI wish to resurrect and redefine the meaning of civility. This is necessary for the healing of our society. What is civility? Politeness and good manners are designed to avoid hurting people’s feelings. But I began to arrive at a better definition of civility…
Genuine civility is in part consciously motivated organizational behavior…
It seems we may live in a society that has almost forgotten the glory of what it means to be human.
We are in need of healing.
Scott Peck, A World Waiting to be Born: Civility Rediscovered


This is something of a sad rant…

I’m having trouble thinking about all this…

Do you ever feel like the world is filled with jerks? By people who missed their “be polite” training lessons? People whose mothers would be ashamed of them?

I’m not talking about people who “fail,” who give in to weaknesses, but are ashamed of themselves when they do.

I’m talking about people who seem to have lost all sense of restraint, and who really seem to think that they can treat other people like…   well, like they’re not actually human beings worthy of respect and kindness.

What’s wrong with these people?

At the moment, I’m reflecting not just on the genuinely, truly evil, who literally cut people’s heads off. That’s another whole difficult issue.

But, today, I’m thinking about stories like the one about the executive from Uber who really should be fired and go back to a multi-year “be civil” training program; and the growing mountain of allegations against Bill Cosby. Heartbreaking!

{Here’s just a little slice of the current Uber problem, from this NY Times article:
Uber’s latest scandal is a doozy: A top executive of the ride service reportedly described a Nixonian plan to dig up dirt on journalists who criticize it and sully their reputations.
But there is a bigger story here that goes far beyond Uber: With the power that comes from being a big, important company comes great responsibility. And the culture of technology start-ups sometimes has trouble recognizing that.}

And I get sick at my stomach at the tone and vocabulary of many who tweet and leave comments all over the web in words that would embarrass any mother around.

What’s wrong with these people?

As M. Scott Peck put it, we are in need of healing…

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

A Short Update about our Monthly Event, the First Friday Book Synopsis, and our 15minutebusinessbooks site

Just a short update about our monthly event, the First Friday book Synopsis.

Karl Krayer and I have presented our book synopses at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas every month since April, 1998. 24 books a year, over 16 years.

We read business books, create multi-page comprehensive handouts, and then present our 15-17 minute synopses, following along with our handouts.

We have presented most of the best business best sellers over the last 16+ years. For the past few years, we have recorded our presentations, and made them available on our companion web site, When you purchase a synopsis, you receive the handout, and the audio recording of our presentations. (You can, of course, listen on your smart phone or tablet, your computer, or in your car if you hook up your phone to your sound system).

Each synopsis costs $9.99. Or, you can purchase a subscription, which gives you all the new synopses for the coming twelve months, along with all of the archived selections. In other words, the entire collection is available with a subscription.

And, one of our regular participants, Doug Caldwell, makes video recordings of many of our presentations. These are not available for purchase, but he puts “snippets” (teasers) up on youtube. These will give you a taste of each synopsis, and a feel for our event. (We meet each month at the Park City Club in University Park in Dallas. Great view of the city; really wonderful full buffet breakfast, plus their made-to-order omelet bar). You can view these videos at:

Here is the playlist for FFBS.

Here is the playlist for 15 Minute Business Books.

(Thanks, Doug).

And, of course, you can attend our monthly event. (Register here). It is an early morning breakfast meeting, 7:00 am, the First Friday of every month (except, in 2015, it will be on the 2nd Friday in January and July – holiday conflicts on the first friday).

If you want to keep up with some of the key content in the best business books, give us a try.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Benedict Carey: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

CareyBenedict J. Carey is a science reporter for The New York Times who focuses on brain and behavior topics. He writes about neuroscience, psychiatry and neurology, as well as everyday psychology. The territory includes the large and the small, memory molecules and group behavior, narcissism and nostalgia, drug uses and drug addiction. From 2007 to 2010, he was the Mind columnist for Science Times, where he wrote about pranks, binge drinking, boredom, regret, perfectionism, study habits and Super Bowl anxiety, among other things.

Carey joined The Times in 2004 as a behavior writer. Previously, he worked at The Los Angeles Times, writing about health, medicine and brain science, where he won a University of Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Award for a story on drinking water. Before that, he was a freelance magazine writer, and a staff writer for Health magazine in San Francisco. He began his career at American Shipper, a trade book in New York covering the shipping trade. He writes frequently for the Review section of the paper and has written two books, both science mysteries for middle-school aged kids: Island of the Unknowns (previously titled The Unknowns in hardback), a math adventure; and Poison Most Vial, a murder mystery involving forensic toxicology due out this spring. His latest book, How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens, was published by Random House (September 2014).

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Ben. To read all of it, please click here.

* * *

Morris: When and why did you decide to write How to Learn?

Carey: I had covered the area – the cognitive science of learning – for years, and saw how counter-intuitive and little known it was. No one gets a course on How to Learn, and we all should. I realized I had the background and the access to deliver the story in all its pieces – biology, theory, experimental findings – and to tie it all together into one big idea: the brain as forager. I was excited about telling the story, and felt a professional obligation.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Carey: Yes, the many dimensions of forgetting, that was wonderful. So often we think of forgetting as the enemy. But no, it’s the greatest friend of learning, allowing us to acquire new skills while also ‘banking’ the old ones for future use.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Carey: It has more of myself in it than I expected. I thought I would let the science do the talking but in the end we are all experts on psychology and learning to some extent – and doing plausibility checks on the information put me in the book a lot. I was, in a sense, speaking for the reader.

Morris: Of all that you learned about how we learn, what did you find most surprising? Please explain.

Carey: Pre-testing was great. Take the final exam on the first day – and do better on the real final. The way front-loading information that is foreign and make it more digestible later on.

Morris: You provide a number of tools in this book. Which seems to be the most difficult to master? Why?

Carey: The most difficult to deploy may be perceptual learning – training up your instincts quickly, in sports, games, music, math. That takes some up-front work and it’s the kind of thing we’re used to doing very slowly.

Morris: You suggest that, “if the brain is a learning machine, then it’s an eccentric one. And it performs best when its quirks are exploited. “ Please explain.

Carey: The brain is a machine, a clump of cells. It has evolved to learn what is most valuable to survival, and just telling it, “Here, learn this,” is not enough to deepen learning. It needs to be *shown* that something is important, by spaced use, by use in all environments, by continual self-testing – all the techniques in the book. The ‘conscious mind’ whatever that is, can’t just give orders. *Using* information and skills is what tells the machine the stuff is important.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

To read my review of How We Learn, please click here.

Ben cordially invites you to check out these websites:

The How We Learn Amazon link

New York Times link

NPR interview link

Scientific American review link

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buckle Up for the Exponential Organization – Insight from Salim Ismail (Global Ambassador for Singularity University)

So, there are times when I feel like a horse and buggy in a Tesla world. And, it’s pretty scary.

I think I get the main point. The world is changing – a lot – fast! – faster than ever before.

And, the pace of change is only going to accelerate.

But, there are times when I feel like it is simply impossible to keep up.

I have presented synopses of many books on creativity and change and innovation. I know all about paradigm shifts (thanks to Thomas Kuhn, and his popularizer Joel Barker), and disruptive technologies and the inescapable disruption (thanks to Clayton Christensen).

But… it looks like we haven’t seen anything yet.

That’s pretty much the summary of a recent call from Jim Young. You’d have to know Jim to understand. He knows the trends as well as (better than!) anyone I know. He called to tell me to read two books. One, recently published; the other, coming in February. He had just been to a conference where he heard the two authors speak.

Exponential OrganizationsWhen Jim calls to tell me to check out a book, I pretty much have to drop everything else and check it out. And so I did. I immediately downloaded the sample pages of Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it) by Salim Ismail.

Here are a few quotes/excerpts from the sample pages:

Congratulations on the successes that got you to this point in your career, but let me forewarn you that those skills are already out of date.
In today’s corporate world there is a new breed of institutional organism – the Exponential Organization – loose on Earth, and if you don’t understand it, prepare for it, and ultimately, become it, you will be disrupted.
Today the constant is change, and the rate of change is increasing.
The 6Ds: Digitized, Deceptive, Disruptive, Dematerialize, Demonetize and Democratize.

That’s just a sampling from the sample pages. The author, Salim Ismail, is one of the founding executive directors of and now Global Ambassador for Singularity University (building on the work of Ray Kurzweil).

In other words, this guy is on the cutting edge of the cutting edge.

So… here’s my reaction. I think things are changing so fast that our organizational abilities are being outstripped. We don’t yet know how to keep up with keeping up.

And, yes, now I have another full book to read to help me hopefully, at least partially, grasp just what is going on.

Thanks Jim – I think…

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

If The People You Lead/Serve/Lead Do Not Grow as Persons, You are Failing as a Leader

Reflections on LeadershipCrucial to good practice in leadership is the understanding that what we intend to be determines what we are able to do…
Larry Spears, in his introduction to his book of essays on servant leadership, Reflections on Leadership: How Robert Greenleaf’s Theory of Servant Leadership Influenced Today’s Management Thinkers

Here’s an interesting observation. Robert Greenleaf was a member of the Religious Society of Friends (a Quaker). And, that Robert Greenleaf was the “father” of the entire concept, which became something of a movement, known as Servant Leadership. Who he was shaped what he became which shaped his leadership philosophy.

So, look at the quote at the top: “what we intend to be determines what we are able to do.”

Do you ever wonder how people who traffic in some form of deception live with themselves? The other day, after about my tenth call in a month that began with the words “Hello, I’m from the computer department,” I asked the nameless voice “what computer department?” I fairly politely told the voice that I wasn’t interested, and hung up. But, this phone approach implies that somehow he was representing the computer department in my company, or some company that I have contracted with. It started with deception.

My wife recently fell victim to the latest magazine subscription scam. She was charged for magazines she did not sign up for, and now she is trying to get her money back. I think she will – but, it will take some time, and effort, and more than a little frustration. (Read about one version of this here).

So… what kind of person participates in this kind of work? What kind of leader hires and trains these people? How do they sleep at night? How do they live with themselves? (I wish they would bring me in to present my synopsis of Servant Leadership).

Now, these aren’t close to the worst people in our society. (We sadly live in a world with the really bad… consider the actions of ISIS).

But, I spent some time reading more about Servant Leadership this weekend. I came away with a sense of sadness. I have too much exposure to leadership books and business books about building successful organizations that focus on winning, profits, dominance in a competitive arena, all with so little attention given to this kind of concern:

The best test is: do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?

(Read my earlier blog post Servant Leadership – Start with Robert Greenleaf’s Original; All that Follows is Commentary and Elaboration).

If our companies and organizations and institutions are not concerned, and concerned first and always, with helping the people they serve “grow as persons,” then we’ve got a great and sad deficiency in our thinking, don’t you think?

Monday, November 17, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Frederic Laloux: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

Laloux After I read Frederic Laloux‘s brilliant book, Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, I was curious to know more about him and learned of his passionate commitment to helping leaders in almost any organization — whatever its size and nature may be — to explore fundamentally new ways of organizing resources (especially people) to achieve and then sustain excellence. One of the keys to that is creating a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive.

Reinventing Organizations draws on two strands:

o Frederick’s deep understanding of the inner workings of organizations, which he developed among other during the years he worked as an organization and strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company

o His longstanding fascination with the topic of human development and his own joyful journey of personal and spiritual growth.

He has worked intimately with people at all levels of organizations. He has witnessed how the organizations that make up the fabric of our modern lives (large corporations and small businesses, hospitals and schools, nonprofits and government agencies) are for the most part places of quiet and pervasive suffering, places inhospitable to the deeper yearnings of our souls. The intuition that more is possible—that we must be capable of creating truly soulful organizations that invite all of our human potential into the workplace—has led him to engage into groundbreaking research: how a currently emerging, new form of consciousness is bringing forth a radically more soulful, purposeful, and productive organizational model.

Reinventing Organizations was published by Kendall Parker (February 2014). It is based on extensive research and has been variously described as “groundbreaking,” “brilliant,” “spectacular,” “impressive,” and “world-changing” by some of the most respected scholars in the field of human development.

Frederic lives in Brussels, Belgium, where he is blessed to share his life with his wife, Hélène, and their two children.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of him. To read all of it, please click here.

* * *

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing Reinventing Organizations? Please explain.

Laloux: A few. For instance, I was very aware of organizations that are values-driven, and that use this to empower people, to push decision-making as low as possible down the pyramid. This is what I was expecting to find in the organizations I was going to research. I didn’t expect for a minute to find very large organizations that didn’t just empower people, but operated entirely on self-managing principles, without layers of hierarchy!

I was still operating under the assumption that you can’t run a large organization without power hierarchy. Now, of course, I know better! I’ve come to see that hierarchy can only deal with limited complexity. And that organizations that want to cope with the increasing complexity of our world will naturally shift to more powerful mechanisms than those based on power hierarchy, of some people holding power over other people.

Another insight had to do with strategy. The current paradigm concerning strategy still made total sense to me before I did the research. In this paradigm the role of leadership is set a vision, define a strategy, and then execute that strategy. Vision, strategy, execution. How else could you do it, right?

And then I came across the leaders of some organizations that I researched who said: No, that’s bullshit (well, they didn’t quite say it that way). Vision, strategy, execution makes sense if you consider the organization to be a lifeless, inanimate entity.

If the organization is like a boat, then yes, the boat needs a captain that charts a course, and then sailors that get busy setting the sails in the right way to go in the right direction. But we don’t consider the organization to be a boat, an inanimate thing we need to direct.

We consider the organization to be like a living entity, we consider that it has its own sense of direction, its own energy, its own thing it wants to manifest in the world. So our role is not to arbitrarily set a direction. Instead, our role is to listen to the organization, listen deeply to where it wants to go. And then we dance with it to help it get there.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Laloux: There were a few unexpected insights, like the ones I just shared. But for the rest, the book in its final structure is very similar to what I had first sketched out on a piece of paper. Overall, the process of researching and writing this book has been surprisingly straightforward. In many ways, I felt like many things were falling in place naturally, like some forces were helping me to write the book.

Morris: In your opinion, from which organization’s reinvention can the most valuable lessons be learned in terms of do’s and don’ts? Please explain.

Laloux: As you know, I have come across three major breakthroughs in how these organizations operate. Now not all organizations have stumbled upon all three of them. Buurtzorg, the Dutch nursing organization, that grew from 0 to 8,000 people in 7 years, is in my opinion the one organization that comes closest to having implemented all three breakthroughs. So they might be a particularly good source of inspiration.

But then again, it all depends on what kind of organization you are. Buurtzorg operates in an industry with a very short process. Giving a patient a shot or changing a bandage is a much shorter process than, say, designing and manufacturing hydraulics valves. So if you want to implement some of these ideas in a factory, you might find inspiration with Sun Hydraulics in Florida, FAVI in France or Morning Star in California.

An organization like Morning Star has fine-tuned the breakthrough of self-management to a wonderful degree, but hasn’t worked much on the other two. So what I’ve tried to do is to draw a picture that would be as complete as possible, using pieces of the puzzle from all the organizations I researched.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1,  please click here.

Frederic cordially invites you check out the resources at these websites:

Reinventing Organization‘s website link

Amazon link

Integral Life conversation with Ken Wilber link

LinkedIn link

YouTube link

Tony Schwartz review in New York Times link

Sunday, November 16, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Servant Leadership – Start with Robert Greenleaf’s Original; All that Follows is Commentary and Elaboration

Randy, could you give me a few books or maybe the best book on servant leadership that you have come across?

That question came from a Dallas Police Officer, who has attended some training sessions we’ve put on for the DPD through the Caruth Institute. It’s a very good question.

I recently heard a student speech on “Bullying.” The student failed to include a critical piece of information. That information: a good definition of “bullying.” After he finished, I read the definition of “bullying” from the dictionary to him and the class, and then the definition of “ridicule,” and told him that his speech was actually more about ridicule than it was about bullying.

Words matter. Concepts matter. And the phrase servant leaderhsip has a history – a beginning point. A “definition.”

servant-leadershi2So, I told the Dallas Police Officer to start with the book that started it all: Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf. To my knowledge, Mr. Greenleaf coined the term. You can buy the 25th Anniversary edition, published in 2002, at Amazon: Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness 25th Anniversary Edition.

Here are some key “foundational thoughts” excerpted from this book:

The servant leader is servant first. “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first.” The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. 

The best test is: do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?

My hope for the future rests in part on my belief that among the legions of deprived and unsophisticated people are many true servants who will lead, and that most of them can learn to discriminate among those who presume to serve them and identify the true servants whom they will follow.

The very essence of leadership, going out ahead to show the way, derives from more that usual openness to inspiration. Why would anybody accept the leadership of another except that the other sees more clearly where it is best to go? A leader ventures to say: “I will go; come with me!” A leader says: “I will go; follow me!” 

A mark of leaders, an attribute that puts them in a position to show the way for others, is that they are better than most at pointing the direction. As long as one is leading, one always has a goal. 

And, from Greenleaf’s The Institution as Servant, Greenleaf’s “credo” –

“This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Whereas, until recently, caring was largely person to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions – often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.”

From the Center for Servant Leadership website, we read this:

Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.

Here are some of my thoughts.

First, if you want to understand a concept, go back to its roots. The book Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf laid the foundation, and in one sense, everything else written about servant leadership is simply commentary and elaboration building on Greenleaf’s solid foundation.

Next, make no mistake — not all leaders are “servant leaders.” In fact, some of our most revered and successful leaders, leaders who have built great successful companies, do not have/did not have much of a servant leadership understanding or approach.

In other words, one does not have to take the servant leadership approach to build a successful company. Nor does taking the servant leadership approach guarantee success (in the “profitability” definition of success).

And, a “danger” — “Servant leader” does not automatically mean “soft” or easy” leadership. If the best test of successful leadership is, as Mr. Greenleaf wrote, do those served grow as persons?,” sometimes a leader has to be tough, direct, challenging, to help people grow as persons. Servant – yes. Soft – not so much.

But, a servant leader is committed to the people he she is leading more than anything else. Yes, a company has to make a profit; yes, a company has to be successful in its competitive arena. But the servant leader is focused on helping the people he/she leads to grow as persons even as they seek the profitability and success of the company.

The book Servant Leadership, and its key principles, provide the starting point – the foundation. So, start here, and keep coming back time-and-again to these basic principles.

And, then, if you want to read more, I suggest:

Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden. Coach Wooden was a true servant leader.
And read Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson. He too, though different in many ways from Coach Wooden, was also a servant leader.


Here is a link to some Must-Read Servant Leadership Books.

And here are the Ten Principles of Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf. (I got these from this web site).

Ten Principles of Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf

  1. Listening – Traditionally, leaders have been valued for their communication and decision making skills. Servant-leaders must reinforce these important skills by making a deep commitment to listening intently to others. Servant-leaders seek to identify and clarify the will of a group. They seek to listen receptively to what is being said (and not said). Listening also encompasses getting in touch with one’s inner voice, and seeking to understand what one’s body, spirit, and mind are communicating.
  2. Empathy – Servant-leaders strive to understand and empathize with others. People need to be accepted and recognized for their special and unique spirit. One must assume the good intentions of coworkers and not reject them as people, even when forced to reject their behavior or performance.
  3. Healing – Learning to heal is a powerful force for transformation and integration. One of the great strengths of servant-leadership is the potential for healing one’s self and others. In “The Servant as Leader”, Greenleaf writes, “There is something subtle communicated to one who is being served and led if, implicit in the compact between the servant-leader and led is the understanding that the search for wholeness is something that they have.”
  4. Awareness – General awareness, and especially self-awareness, strengthens the servant-leader. Making a commitment to foster awareness can be scary–one never knows that one may discover! As Greenleaf observed, “Awareness is not a giver of solace – it’s just the opposite. It disturbed. They are not seekers of solace. They have their own inner security.”
  5. Persuasion – Servant-leaders rely on persuasion, rather than positional authority in making decisions. Servant-leaders seek to convince others, rather than coerce compliance. This particular element offers one of the clearest distinctions between the traditional authoritarian model and that of servant-leadership. The servant-leader is effective at building consensus within groups.
  6. Conceptualization – Servant-leaders seek to nurture their abilities to “dream great dreams.” The ability to look at a problem (or an organization) from a conceptualizing perspective means that one must think beyond day-to-day realities. Servant-leaders must seek a delicate balance between conceptualization and day-to-day focus.
  7. Foresight – Foresight is a characteristic that enables servant-leaders to understand lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and the likely consequence of a decision in the future. It is deeply rooted in the intuitive mind.
  8. Stewardship – Robert Greenleaf’s view of all institutions was one in which CEO’s, staff, directors, and trustees all play significance roles in holding their institutions in trust for the great good of society.
  9. Commitment to the Growth of People – Servant-leaders believe that people have an intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions as workers. As such, servant-leaders are deeply committed to a personal, professional, and spiritual growth of each and every individual within the organization.
  10. Building Community – Servant-leaders are aware that the shift from local communities to large institutions as the primary shaper of human lives has changed our perceptions and has caused a feeling of loss. Servant-leaders seek to identify a means for building community among those who work within a given institution.

Friday, November 14, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | 1 Comment


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