Mackay: Difference between self-serving leaders and servant leaders

  • Article by: HARVEY MACKAY
  • Updated: September 30, 2012 - 5:47 PM

Ken Blanchard believes corporate America is in desperate need of a different leadership role model. And I couldn't agree more.

Ken is a walking management encyclopedia: He's written 50 books with more than 90 contributing authors. His blockbuster book, "The One Minute Manager," has sold 13 million copies around the world. He has a practical, no-nonsense style that I love.

While most leaders think that leadership is in your head, Ken thinks effective leadership starts in the heart. Your heart controls your motivation, your intent and your leadership character.

He compared what he calls self-serving leaders to servant leaders and mentioned three main differences.

The first difference is feedback. If you've ever tried to give negative feedback up the hierarchy of a self-serving leadership team, you know the difference. You get destroyed.

Self-serving leaders thrive in critical environments, whereas servant leaders prefer supportive environments.

Ken said: "I travel around the world, and I'll say to people, 'How do you know whether you're doing a good job?' The No. 1 response I still get is, 'Nobody's yelled at me lately.'"

He went on to say that if he could teach only one thing, it would be to develop great relationships. He advised that to develop great organizations, you have to wander around and catch people doing the right things and then praise them in front of everyone.

The second major difference is that self-serving leaders don't want anyone else to look really good, while servant leaders want to build leadership in their group. They have no problem with someone rising up. They don't mind sharing leadership.

My philosophy is you'd be amazed at how much you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit. I also believe that three opinions are better than two and five are better than four.

The third difference is ego. "Self-serving leaders are caught in the trap that they think their self-worth is a function of their performance plus the opinion of others," Ken said. "They have this scorekeeping system. The only way they can keep going is they've got to get more. Their scorekeeping centers around three things: accumulation of wealth, recognition/power and status."

Ken advises that there is nothing wrong with accumulating money, getting recognized or having some power and status. "What's wrong is if that's who you think you are, because then your self-worth is tied up there, and you're going to have to keep on performing," he said.

Servant leaders define self-worth differently. They are comfortable in their skin.

"A lot of people have this image that people who are humble are weak," Ken said. "People with humility don't think less of themselves, they just think about themselves less. That's really a powerful thing."

Mackay's Moral: None of us is as smart as all of us.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.

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