Hostmanship Review repost #7

This is a repost of my review of Hostmanship for the benefit of those who have found me through the Great Johnny Bunko Challenge. My 7th. lesson is Say, Thanks, Every Day. A fitting action of Hostmanship.  A portion of this review will appear each day throughout the week.


Hostmanship cover 2

This is the last post in a series on the book Hostmanship - The art of making people feel welcome, by Jan Gunnarsson and Olle Blohm.  You can find the whole review as a downloadable ebook here .

Hostmanship is a leadership approach that mirrors what is called servant leadership, a business leadership concept developed by the late Robert Greenleaf.  His work is carried on by an organization under his name. The Greenleaf center describes servant leadership this way.

Servant-Leadership is a practical philosophy that supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions.  Servant-leaders may or may not hold formal leadership positions.  Servant-leadership encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment.

Here's Robert Greenleaf's own definition.

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.  He or she is sharply different from the person who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.  For such it will be a later choice to serve – after leadership is established.  The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types.  Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

 

The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.  The best test, and difficult to administer, 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, will they not be further deprived?”

Taken from the Servant As Leader published by Robert Greenleaf in 1970.


Servant leadership is what people should do.  The problem is that we primarily think of it as a system of leadership to be applied like a manufacturing process. It is not a technique driven solution to organizational problems.  It is something different, and that difference I believe is what Jan Gunnarsson has understood in this idea called Hostmanship.

The difference between the two concepts is that Servant Leadership begins with the desire for the leader to serve. Hostmanship begins with the leader as a person.

As the authors say, Hostmanship is an attitude. It is an attitude that is exhibited in action, in relationship.  This is a throwback to the philosophy of ancient Greece that saw in the action of a person the character of the person. The better the character the better the action.  And in this case the better the Hostmanship character the greater acts of service as a servant leader.

I have struggled for over twenty years with the way leadership is conceived in American organizations.  I do find it primarily technique driven. Master these skills. Adopt this style. And you'll be an effective leader.  I don't think it really happens that way.

Rather, leadership character develops under stress and testing.  The real character of the person emerges when the walls of responsibility are closing in and there is no easy escape.  When pressure builds and there is the inclination to flee or hide, and you stand your ground and find a way out.  This is the pressure cooker that builds or reveals leadership character.  And if you come through it as a servant leader, you will most likely have the makings of being an excellent host to your company's guests.

Literally everyday, I talk with people in the crucible of leadership stress and demand. They are not all clients in fact most are not. They are simply people of all types who desire to make a difference in their lives, and seeking for some way to make it work.  I don't think servant leadership as a management concept addresses this situation for most leaders.  I do think that Hostmanship begins to.

Hostmanship is an attitude about people and your relationship with people in a business context. It is an attitude of openness and caring expressed in service. But it begins by recognizing who you really are.  Do you really know your own limitations?  Do you really see your limitations as a gift of direction for your life and the course of your business?  Where you are limited means either, don't go there or I need someone to fill the gap. Hostmanship leaves behind our natural arrogance that puts ourselves above our guest, and instead puts us in a more humble relationship to people so that mutual service and benefit may result.

I've known about Hostmanship for a long time, though I didn't know the name or of the Swedish authors that brought the world this fine little book. I've known it as much as a guest who wants my hosts to be at their best. I want to be the kind of guest that wants my host to serve me with joy and anticipation for the appreciation that I can return to them.  Yes, you are hearing correctly that I think guests have as much to do with the quality of service as hosts do.

Hostmanship is born in caring and kindness towards others.  It is not a weak or passive approach to leadership. Rather it is the most difficult type of leadership there is.  It is the attitude and the character that precedes servant leadership. It is the leadership of personal responsibility.  It is my taking responsibility for my actions in relation to my guest and the environment that my guest finds them in when they come to me for service. It is the leadership of the whole person realized through their function, in their organization, for their destination and nation.

I hope you will acquire a copy of Hostmanship and share copies with your friends and colleagues.  It will make not only a business difference, but also a personal one that will bring great satisfaction and happiness.


Primus inter pares - a strategic ethic of leadership success

The Latin term, primus inter pares, means first among equals. As typically defined, it is the senior most person on a team of equals. Robert Greenleaf uses the term as one way to understand the nature of servant leadership. Both terms, primus inter pares and servant leadership are principally about the character and relationship of leaders to others.  These are not descriptions of a system of organization. Rather, they are descriptions of how a person relates to people within a given structure.3dLeadership - Mission-Vision-Values

Let's use my Three Dimensions of Leadership diagram as a guide.

Primus inter pares, first among equals, is an idea that describes a relationship. It means that one of the people within a group has an authority that exceeds the others, yet they are equal in some respect. Their equality could be based on the roles within the organizational structure, or the lack of a specific structure.

For example, a group of sales people meet to discuss strategies for coordinating their outreach to the market. One of the members of this group may emerged as the defacto leader of the group. This first among equals earns this position within the social structure of the group because of experience, knowledge, or personal character. They may be the most strategic thinker, or the best at facilitating conversation, but ultimately, this person emerges as the one who makes the group function best.

It is important to understand the connection between the social structure of an organization, the Relationships dimension, and the organizational structure. Within the latter, individuals have titles, roles, positions of authority and responsibility. In organizations where the Relationship dimension is poorly developed, the organizational structure will more likely be hierarchical, segmented, resistant to change.  In organizations where the Organizational Structure is dysfunctional, meaning how the business is organized is not compatible with its mission and inhibits the people within the organization from doing their best work, the Relationship dimension strengthens to a certain level to facilitate daily survival.  In this instance, some individual will emerge as the primus inter pares.

The importance of a culture of primus inter pares is that it provides a greater degree of openness for relationships to develop. People are more free to exchange ideas. The organization thinks more strategically, than tactically, or rather tactics and strategy are much better coordinated because the communication and interaction level of the organization is much higher.

Does functioning as a primus inter pares enhance the role of CEO in an organization?  I believe it does. The challenge is to learn how do be a first-among-equals while also being the boss. The distinction is between the Relationship and Organizational Structure dimensions.

If the CEO, simply functions within the parameters of the executive role, what ultimately happens is a narrowing of the relationship network available to him or her. When a CEO fails to develop a relationship network as a primus inter pares, then there is a closing off of access to information.

Ron Burt in his two books, Structural Holes and Brokerage and Closure, writes about how relationship networks provide access to information that gives entrepreneurs a competitive advantage. The advantage is between the person who has a widely dispersed, diverse network of relations, and the person who doesn't.

Recently, I heard Meridith Elliot Powell speak on the develop a relationship network strategy. She identifies three different networks that leaders need to develop. There is an Enterprise network functioning within the business, a Business network of relationships within the business' industry, and then, a Strategic network of people who provide information that would not typically be available to those in the Closed and Open Relationships other two networks.

What these networks do is open up the CEO to learn what he or she needs to know that within the more closed, restricted circle of executives is not available. Within the closed circle, the CEO can act as supreme authority, but within an open, diverse network of relations, the CEO must act as a primus inter pares at least.

Within this network perspective, the CEO comes to understand that what he or she doesn't know is more important than what is known. Access to people with different perspectives and knowledge broadens the CEO's own perspective. The relationship to those outside the executive circle is not an Organizational Structural one, but rather a personal and professional one. There is relative equality based on the basic human need for trust and respect in the relationship. We approach those relationships with humility and openness to learn, and have perceptions broadened. And in exchange, the CEO provides perspective to those outside the executive suite.

Servant leadership is an ethic of relationship between leaders and followers. It is organizationally understood best from the primus inter pares relationship. As the first among equals, the CEO and other executives broaden their relationship network, putting them in a competitive advantage with those executives who do not. Primus inter pares is not a tactic for leadership success. It is an ethic for building strength within an organization. If the CEO is able to engender trust and confidence in him or herself, it will be because of both their competence in the role of leader and their relationship of openness and equality with people.  And becoming a primus inter pares within one's relationship network as a servant leader is a path to leadership success.


Quick Takes: Tom Peters on Servant Leadership

So much of leadership has to do with attitude. And during challenging ecoTom Peters on Servingnomic times, our attitudes will largely determine whether we'll succeed or decline.

It is for this reason I want to point you to Tom Peter's latest PowerPoint offering - Talent 57.  There is such a rich wealth of wisdom and insight in these slides.

This slide is the 5th in a sequence of 544 slides. Yes, 544.

If there is one idea that is going to get us through the economic challenges of the next decade, it is these two ideas combined as Servant Leadership. To lead is to serve; to serve is to lead. And it is where the future strength of organizations will be found.

In his annotation that follows this slide, Tom writes,

This is the critical contextual point. Every organizational entity exists only to serve. To serve its members, who in turn do something of use for others called customers, the community, etc. This “model” applies equally to baseball teams and accounting departments serving other internal departments and restaurants and Girl Scout troops. In turn, leaders’ only principal role is to serve (provide growth opportunities, etc) those who are in turn being of service.

I am in total agreement with him. If you step back and look at the troubles our economic system is facing, you'll begin to see that leaders have failed to serve.  And the only way out is to serve. To do requires a change of mindset.  And here's the fuller description by Tom.Tom Peters on Servant Leadership

Servant leadership isn't a meek, passive, serf-like existence. It is the exact opposite because in order to serve one must lay aside one's own narcissistic ego, and become servant to a higher goal, a greater vision and a more noble life ethic.

I wonder how many of us today with the constant news of economic decline can read these words of Tom's and say I believe them to be true and achievable in my lifetime. It all begins with attitude. If you have an attitude that this can be true, then you'll do the hard work to make it so.  I'm not sure we have a better choice now.

Download Tom's PPT. You perception of leadership will be change, and with that your attitude about what is possible. And that is what we need right now.


31 Questions: servant leadership

30. What is servant leadership?

Servant leadership is an idea first conceived by Robert Greenleaf, and now led by a center in his name.

"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, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."

Much has been written on servant leadership, and I encourage you to read and absorb as much of this perspective on leadership as possible.

However, I'd like to place this question in the context of my first four Assumptions about leadership.

1. Leadership is both a role and a responsibility.
2. Leadership is role specific based on position within the organizational structure.
3. Leadership is a responsibility when it is a matter of influence and impact.
4. Leadership occurs in the context of human relationships.

These ideas assume that leadership is much more than an institutional role within an organizational structure. It is not simply a set of tasks and activities that one conducts.

Leadership is much more a product of the character of an individual.  The underlying assumption is that every member of an organization is in a leadership relationship with someone. Each one of us influences someone by our actions. That influence, properly understood, is leadership.

Therefore, servant leadership is a way to understand how to fulfill our leadership responsibility.

What, then, does it mean to serve first within the context of our relationships in business?

The question that rarely gets asked in this context is "Is our business structured - organized - to produce servant leadership? Or, does how we function force people into decisions and actions that encourage self-interest over against action for the greater good.

Servant leadership is not an organizational system.  If it is to make a sustainable difference in your business, you must take the time to look at how you are organized to determine what policies and structures inhibit the development of this leadership practice.

How, then, do business develop servant leadership throughout their business?


Hostmanship - A Serial Review #7 - In Comparision to Servant Leadership

This is the last in a series of review of the book, Hostmanship - The Art of making people feel welcome, by Jan Gunnarsson and Olle Blohm. 

Hostmanship is a leadership approach that mirrors what is called servant leadership, a business leadership concept developed by the late Robert Greenleaf.  His work is carried on by an organization under his name. The Greenleaf center describes servant leadership this way.

Servant-Leadership is a practical philosophy that supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions.  Servant-leaders may or may not hold formal leadership positions.  Servant-leadership encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment. 

Here's Robert Greenleaf's own definition.

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.  He or she is sharply different from the person who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.  For such it will be a later choice to serve – after leadership is established.  The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types.  Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.  The best test, and difficult to administer, 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, will they not be further deprived?” 

Taken from the Servant As Leader published by Robert Greenleaf in 1970.

Servant leadership is what people should do.  The problem is that we primarily think of it as a system of leadership to be applied like a manufacturing process. It is not a technique driven solution to organizational problems.  It is something different, and that difference I believe is what Jan Gunnarsson has understood in this idea called Hostmanship.

The difference between the two concepts is that Servant Leadership begins with the desire for the leader to serve. Hostmanship begins with the leader as a person.

As the authors say, Hostmanship is an attitude. It is an attitude that is exhibited in action, in relationship.  This is a throwback to the philosophy of ancient Greece that saw in the action of a person the character of the person. The better the character the better the action.  And in this case the better the Hostmanship character the greater acts of service as a servant leader.

I have struggled for over twenty years with the way leadership is conceived in American organizations.  I do find it primarily technique driven. Master these skills. Adopt this style. And you'll be an effective leader.  I don't think it really happens that way.

Rather, leadership character develops under stress and testing.  The real character of the person emerges when the walls of responsibility are closing in and there is no easy escape.  When pressure builds and there is the inclination to flee or hide, and you stand your ground and find a way out.  This is the pressure cooker that builds or reveals leadership character.  And if you come through it as a servant leader, you will most likely have the makings of being an excellent host to your company's guests.

Literally everyday, I talk with people in the crucible of leadership stress and demand. They are not all clients in fact most are not. They are simply people of all types who desire to make a difference in their lives, and seeking for some way to make it work.  I don't think servant leadership as a management concept addresses this situation for most leaders.  I do think that Hostmanship begins to.

Hostmanship is an attitude about people and your relationship with people in a business context. It is an attitude of openness and caring expressed in service. But it begins by recognizing who you really are.  Do you really know your own limitations?  Do you really see your limitations as a gift of direction for your life and the course of your business?  Where you are limited means either, don't go there or I need someone to fill the gap. Hostmanship leaves behind our natural arrogance that puts ourselves above our guest, and instead puts us in a more humble relationship to people so that mutual service and benefit may result.

I've known about Hostmanship for a long time, though I didn't know the name or of the Swedish authors that brought the world this fine little book. I've known it as much as a guest who wants my hosts to be at their best. I want to be the kind of guest that wants my host to serve me with joy and anticipation for the appreciation that I can return to them.  Yes, you are hearing correctly that I think guests have as much to do with the quality of service as hosts do.

Hostmanship is born in caring and kindness towards others.  It is not a weak or passive approach to leadership. Rather it is the most difficult type of leadership there is.  It is the attitude and the character that precedes servant leadership. It is the leadership of personal responsibility.  It is my taking responsibility for my actions in relation to my guest and the environment that my guest finds them in when they come to me for service. It is the leadership of the whole person realized through their function, in their organization, for their destination and nation.

I hope you will acquire a copy of Hostmanship and share copies with your friends and colleagues.  It will make not only a business difference, but also a personal one that will bring great satisfaction and happiness.



The Heart of Leadership - Service

It is often forgotten in the superficial hero-worship that our time has afforded business leaders, that leadership begins and ends in service.  There is not an organization that I know of that better understands service than that of the US military.  There is a reason we call them the military services.

Donald Sensing shared with the blogosphere the farewell his family had with his son, Lance Corp. Stephen Sensing, USMC as he prepared to deploy to Iraq yesteday.  It is as serious as it is touching.  Having a friend who spent the better part of a year in Afghanistan helping to rebuild the country, and another friend whose son is a USA Ranger who has seen action in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past couple years, I know a little about what this must mean for Rev. and Mrs. Sensing.

Here is how he ends his posting. 

My son and his fellows are producers of freedom, not mere consumers of it. And those who only consumed freedom will one night lie in their beds and think themselves accursed that they didn’t serve with them.

The optimum word here is serve.  For a young man to serve his country by freely giving up his right to be safe and secure in his own bed, eating his mother's food and enjoying a football game with his dad is the most remarkable example of self-sacrifice that I know.  I continue to go back to Homer who presented to the West of the image of courage in battle as the standard of individual character and leadership service to one's community.  Courage in the name of freedom.  Courage in service to humankind.

At the heart of leadership is service, and this character of service is marked by respect, discipline, humilty and a fierce devotion to one's mates.  Leadership is an individual decision to take the initiative to do what is right and needed at this very moment.  If it is nothing more than self-aggrandizement or a vague abstract idea, then it is not leadership.  That leadership can only be experienced in relationship with those who are colleagues, partners and followers by necessity means that it is a relationship of service.  It requires self-sacrifice, often isolation, and frequently deep sadness.  It  requires elevating the team, the organization, the unit by serving others so that they will lead through their own actions. 

Nowhere does this happen more fully than in the US military.  Why?  I can think of several reasons.

1.  Laying one's life on the line is serious business. It isn't a game, but something very real, very dangerous and very consequential.   Military service is about life and death.  It changes your perspective. 

2.  They are the most focused, well organized and the best trained organization in the history of civilization.  It is a system designed not to produce robotic functionaries, but leaders. 

3.  They have learned from the past that winning a war is not the same as winning the peace.  As a result, the US military is the finest reconstruction organization that we have.  Need to rebuild a nation?  Call the US military. 

Rev. Sensing notes in his closing remarks that many people will regret that they did not take the same path toward service.  This is true. The dilemma for most of us is how we might share the danger and the camraderie of service that Lance Corp. Sensing experiences everyday. 

If you do not understand what this means, let me suggest that you find the final episode of the miniseries Band of Brothers and watch it.   Here you will hear the men of Easy Company who survived Worth War II tell of what it is like to be a member of the US military services.  Think about every organizational setting where you participate, and ask yourself of these, how many have this character of service. 

For most of us we can not accompany Corp. Sensing on his tour of duty.  But we can serve along side him as servant leaders seeking to bring freedom to all those social settings that are hide-bound around a tradition of lost values and purpose. 

At the heart of leadership is service, at the heart of service is the willingness to lay aside one's own perogatives so that others will not just benefit but find in that act a new perspective about their own freedom and the responsibility to leadership that comes with it.

Semper Fi, Lance Corporal Stephen Sensing.  Thank you and your mates for your leadership and service.


Board Accountability, Codes of Ethics and Servant Leadership

The March 28 issue of USNews has a story on the growing accountability placed on CEOs and Boards. 

Here's a portion:

In January, a massive shareholder lawsuit arising out of Enron's bankruptcy was settled with an unprecedented twist: Ten former directors were held personally liable for the company's apocalyptic 2001 collapse, requiring them to fork over a total of $13 million out of their own pockets. A similar settlement was announced in a WorldCom shareholder lawsuit, though it was subsequently voided, and a new agreement is expected this week.

Money talks. Corporate governance experts say the prospect that once cushy directorships could now become a liability, in the true sense of the word, is one reason for the recent spate of hasty ousters from the executive suite. "For directors, it certainly focuses the mind," says Harvard Business School Prof. Rakesh Khurana.

The governance of any organization begins with the board.  However, it appears increasingly that Boards need another planning tool to assist them in their role.

They need a pro-active, behavior based Code of Ethics.  They don't need a code of ethics that is boilerplate.  They need one that prescribes certain leadership, management and operational approaches.

Here's a site that gives some helpful information about writing one.

In addition, I think this is an exercise that is best not done by committee, but through a facilitated conversation that extends throughout the whole organization.  Why?

There are only two reasons why a Code of Ethics will work.  It will work because it is puntative, and forces people to follow ethical practices because of the sanctions that would be inforced if those policies were violated. 

Or, a Code will work because the people want it to.  That will only happen if it makes sense to them and it fits with their core values. 

How do you know what those values are?  You ask. You create a conversation about it with the help of a representative group to interpret what they hear.  A statement then can be drafted with the help of a faciliator that provides a clear, complelling statement of the ethical practices that the company wants to promote, encourage and reward. 

Are there examples or approaches that can be helpful in directing organizations toward a more pro-active, behavioral Code of Ethics.

Yes.  For 40 + years, within the management and leadership studies worlds, Robert Greenleaf's Servant Leadership idea has been much discussed.  That leaders should "serve first, and lead second" is an ethical ideal that  has much to do with how leaders conduct themselves as leaders. 
Quoted at the Greenleaf Center site is this:

"It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.  Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. ... The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant - first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served."

Does this have a relevance to the roles and responsibilities of Boards.  No question. 

What is the place of servant leadership in the Board room.  It is to recognize that every organization is a human institution.  Therefore insuring that employees, vendors, clients and the public are treated with respect and dignity is part of the answer.

Can the manufacturer of widgets see itself as serving people?
Can a company that mines raw materials see itself as a company is service to the welfare of others?
Can a the CEO of a company whose market share is dropping and whose competition is from cheaper labor over seas see him or herself as a servant to others?

Can a servant leadership informed Code of Ethics build a more profitable company? 

Does it have anything to do with the bottom line apart from being honest and having integrity?

I think so.

There are limits to every technique or system for organizing work.  However, a company operating on servant leadership principles should have a more sustainable client base and less turn over in the staff.  Those are measures that are important for long term profitability.

That said, I think the way to implement a servant leadership program in a company is to begin with the Code of Ethics that provide guidance to the Board and the executive leadership team.  Following that, designing systems of communication, collaboration and decision-making based on these principles will be essential supports to such an effort.


When self-preservation trumps everything else

The tsunami crisis is fast turning into a war of words over the delivery of aid to the affected countries.

Belmont Club has several postings here, here and here. He points to Diplomad, a blog by career US state department officers, who are writing about what is happening on the ground with relief efforts.

The tug of war seems to be who can "claim" to be the "leading" organization of relief efforts.  The UN is taking a public relations beating.  It seems that they are the last quasi global governmental organization to get the picture that leadership can no longer be accerted.  It must be earned. 

Part of earning it is with humility, with a commitment to servant-leadership.  Not self-deprecating words, but actions to demonstrate that organizational self-preservation is not their ultimate mission. 

It seems that supporters of the UN are beginning to get the picture as this private meeting with Kofi Annan was recently held.  Here's the full story in the International Herald Tribune(Thanks to Instapundit). 

Here's the question that is raised in my mind by this. 

Why hasn't the United Nations learned what other large, complex global organizations learned and are learning everyday? That leadership is not something you declare - "We are the leaders of this effort!" - it is something you live.  And living it in the 21st century means you get your head screwed on straight about relationships.

This quote from the article is telling.

"The larger argument, according to participants, addressed two broad needs. First, Annan had to move aggressively to repair relations with Washington where, they said, the administration and many in Congress thought he and the United Nations had worked actively against President George W. Bush's reelection. And second, he had to restore his relationship with his own bureaucracy, where workers felt his office protected high-level officials accused of misconduct."

These two issues point to a failure of leadership at a very fundamental conceptual level. 

It would appear that Kofi Annan has lost leadership perspective.  His organization is not an elected state government, but a voluntary service organization, just like any other relief agency.  The fact that they have a wider mission, gain their funds from governmental sources, and even participate in military peacekeeping efforts is secondary to this reality. 

What EVERY non-profit organization knows is that maintain good relations with your supporters is absolutely essentialThat sustaining respectful, trusting, honest, collaborative, mutually beneficial relations is a principle responsibility of the leadership of the organization.  Here, I'd say the United Nations has failed, and has failed for a long, long time.

When organizations lose their focus, their mission clarity, their organizational identity, and consequently how they measure their effectiveness, organizational self-preservation tend to dominate.  Based on the reports above this is the case at the UN.

From this outsiders perspective, the United Nations needs to spend some time retooling the fundamentals of leadership and organizational vision, if they are to be the organization that many people still believe they can be.

The reality is that in a time when communication has become so immediate, an organization that acts as a buffer between nations may not be needed.

Organizations hire facilitators all the time to assist in communication and collaboration between groups.  But, never does the facilitator claim authority over the parties involved.  The facilitator is a servant leader who leads the parties involved to recognize their mutual stake in the issue that brought them together, and assists in each taking ownership for the outcome of the decisions they make together.

Not understanding their role seems to be the ongoing problem at the UN.  That ultimately is a leadership problem. Time will tell whether they can make the necessary internal changes to become a leading 21st century organization.


Alfred White on self-confidence, servant leadership, and passion in life

CITIZEN-TIMES.com: Real Life Leadership: Self-confidence

Here's this week's Real Life Leadership column that appears twice monthly in the Asheville Citizen-Times WNC Business Journal.

Self-confidence is a fascinating phenomenon. For some people, a self-confident person is just that. For others, they are arrogant, egotisical and vain.

When I spoke with Alfred White, Associate commissioner for administration for the collegiate athletic conference, Conference USA, about this, he shared with me some valuable insights.

He said that what separates the self-confident person from the arrogant, egotistical one is humility. He describe it in terms of servant leadership.

Servant Leadership is a perspective developed by Robert Greenleaf over 40 years ago to address some of the needs that he identified in the corporate world where he worked.

Here's a selection from his essay, The Servant as Leader.

“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. He or she is sharply different from the person who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. For such it will be a later choice to serve – after leadership is established. The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

The difference manifest itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer , 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, will they not be further deprived?”

This approach to leadership requires not only a humble character, but also a disciplined character.

Alfred White spoke to me of taking on a "planning state of mind." He told me that this is how he prepares for each day. It is how he takes a vision for servant leadership and makes it work for him each day.

Before Alfred joined Conference USA, he spent three years here in Asheville as the president of the Asheville Altitude, NBDL basketball team. His leadership of their organization contributed to the Atltitude winning the NBDL championship last season.

So, success in life and leadership can come to people who exhibit a humble self-confidence as servant leadership.

Thank you Alfred for your wisdom and example.

Update: the column is no longer online.  Here it is.

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