WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT, strategy or execution? I believe both are critical. But what if something else is just as important? There is a third ingredient to business success, one that many companies undervalue: servant leadership.
In today’s business climate, the cadence between strategy and execution is compressing, making the integration of the two more important than ever. Too many workers are being left out of this equation. More and more people are disconnected from their company’s goals, even though they still report being satisfied with their jobs. A Global Workforce Survey conducted by Towers Watson revealed that a mere 21 percent of workers feel engaged and truly committed to their company’s success and goals, even though 86 percent report liking their jobs. Is this reflective of a failure of leadership, a shift in the attitudes of today’s workers, or both?
Apparently, many people are settling for a job that satisfies their basic needs, yet denies them a motivating answer to two important questions: “How does my personal work connect to my company’s goals, and how can I help us achieve them?” In these cases, leaders have unfortunately failed to fully engage workers in either the development or execution of their company’s mission, goals, and ultimately its journey toward success or failure. Too often, workers are being over-managed and under-led. I believe this “commitment gap” represents the largest source of untapped potential to create economic value in our society today.
How can leaders tap into this gap and raise the performance bar? This question matters more now than it ever has. As our world becomes more socially connected, more women progress into leadership roles, and millennials seek more meaning and purpose in their work than previous generations did, the principles of servant leadership are becoming more relevant than ever before.
Based on my experience leading high performing teams over the last 36 years, I developed a blueprint of nine proven leadership principles I’ve used to improve the performance of several businesses by moving workforces from satisfactorily disengaged to enthusiastically committed to winning:
1. Grow leaders and difference-makers, not just followers.
2. Build and orchestrate synergistic, high performance teams more powerful than the sum of their parts.
3. Focus your organization on strategic priorities and simplify operations to accelerate progress.
4. Champion the people who purchase and use your products and services.
5. Cultivate a performance-based culture of innovation that unleashes the innate desire in the people you lead to solve, create, and contribute to winning.
6. Communicate relentlessly to give your workforce the context they need to sign up for and truly commit to achieving company goals.
7. See the world through the eyes of others, and your example will breed a healthier organization.
8. Be the model you want emulated. Operate transparently, deliver on your promises, and remain steadfastly focused on doing the right things.
9. Coach people to achieve more than they thought possible. They need a model of success more than they need a critic. Inspire your entire organization to step up by revealing what success looks like, catching people doing something well, and showing your gratitude publicly.
If you connect with these principles, I encourage you to check out my new book The Bridge to Growth. It’s packed with useful tips and tools, and each leadership principle is articulated using real-world success models that bring the principles to life.
Jude Rake. He is a veteran CEO with a 35+ year track record of building businesses to create economic value, from well known consumer packaged goods companies such as The Clorox Company, PepsiCo, and SC Johnson, to smaller family owned and private equity backed businesses. He founded JDR Growth Partners to help other leaders achieve growth
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