“I dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.” – Rabindranath Tagore
The Japanese Samurais’ legendary fearlessness and martial prowess echoes in history. Poets carried stories of their skill and bravery across vast oceans. The reader might be surprised at the meaning of the word “Samurai”, it means – “To serve”. Samurais served their Lords with legendary discipline and a collective aspiration to a warrior code that they deemed to be higher than themselves called “Bushido” (The way of the warrior).
The way of the Samurai lives on only within the memory of some. Some of the principles that they lived by will however never die as they form the fabric of some modern legendary businesses and sports teams.
Aspiration towards something higher than ourselves, disciplined action in service of others and always honing our skills are principles sorely needed to meet the challenges of the current business landscape and life in general.
Quite many readers might relate to the narrative of joy experienced from unconditional giving, especially if the gift was helping someone to change her life in a meaningful and lasting way.
When you have passion for witnessing someone or a business transform into the greatest form of themselves you might have had at least a glimpse of how the principles of Servant Leadership can act as a catalyst for purposeful and sustainable change.
The word servant might conjure up conflicting images in various peoples’ minds, ranging from constructs such as slavery to servant heroes such as Nelson Mandela whom held an aspiring vision in higher regard than themselves.
When we embark upon the journey of servant leadership we are all challenged to renewed thinking by the following proverb , – “If service is below you then leadership is beyond you.”
This article is a medium to offer a legion of alternatives to seeing service as a form slavery. Servant Leadership experienced as a practical paradigm shift has the potential to transform individuals, businesses, and even countries into greatness. Individuals whom choose to wear the mantle of servant leadership have the opportunity to improve their families’ situation and even communities.
When we acknowledge the servant leadership capabilities within us all and dare to tread on the journey towards actualisation of this wonderful gift we soon become conscious that our own minds are potentially the most restrictive slave masters of them all, that is when we allow it to be.
Thoughts entertained long enough tend to become beliefs. Perpetual thinking that forms beliefs such as:
“I am not good enough”
“Only people with born charisma can lead”
“you have to have a title to lead”
“I am an introvert therefore I cannot lead”
“I do not have the skill nor experience to lead”
“Giving and serving is conditional”
“I am a failure”
“My job is to order people what to do therefore I am not a servant but a master…”
is in fact stumbling blocks that we have created ourselves that prevents us from unleashing our authentic and inherent servant leadership potential within.
The first step towards actualisation of our servant leadership potential is to rid ourselves of our self-inflicted and limiting beliefs and actions. Countless servant leaders have proven that “the mind that perceives the limitation is the limitation”.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You cannot feel inferior without your consent”, revealing the truth that we are either good enough to serve and lead or not, by choice and individual perception.
Those brave servants among us who are self-motivated individuals that came to the realisation that even without a prestigious title, they are true leaders in practise, by continuously improving themselves and becoming an example that others want to follow, deserve our admiration.
Several introverts who realised that their introversion is actually a blessing as it can empower them to spend many hours alone, without distractions, honing their craft to perfection without needing to engage others as frequently as most extroverts have the need for.
When you have the sincere mindset of a servant leader skills can be acquired and experience developed over time only the drive and passion to do so is required.
Unconditional giving is true service to, and love for others whether it is skills transference or any other form of gift. Conditional giving is a form of enslavement albeit that it might be veiled by certain rewards in some instances. Mother Theresa is a pristine example of a servant leader whom believed in unconditional love and giving.
“Calm seas never made a good sailor” – Although the author fully recognises that very tough times do not in general provide immediate gratification, even quite the opposite indeed, difficulty is a great teacher in many ways.
The accumulation of challenging experiences endured and overcome becomes powerful tools that the servant leader utilizes to teach others to triumph over similar circumstances.
Making mistakes, losing your job, even closing businesses, albeit very painful, does not make you a failure. It is very natural for our egos’ to not appreciate nor like the blows suffered that failure inflicts so masterfully. The true servant does well, however to guard against those thoughts of being a failure, for if they are entertained long enough they can become powerful and negative beliefs.
A leader taking up the responsibility of being an example to others must view each failure as a learning experience and more important implement the learning in order to move forward.
The difference between a true servant leader and those who give up is a matter of principle, which is that a servant leader never gives up for in giving up it is a disservice not only to the leader but to her team members as well. How can you serve when you have given up? Perseverance to the servant leader is therefore not a choice but a matter of principle.
Related: Paddy Upton: People Centred Coaching
As a general example, when someone in a position of authority simply barks orders and dangles rewards in front of people whilst the treat of punishment is always hanging as a dark cloud over them when they do not perform that person is not serving anyone but herself in the long run.
Servant Leaders’ always aim to create a climate of inspiration by firstly showing others through their actions that the grand vision that they collectively entertain is a possibility. Servant leaders care about people and love what they do. They are always improving themselves and take daily steps towards an inspiring vision that is greater than themselves despite several challenges that will occur.
The wise and renowned consultant and expert on Culture, Dr. Edgar Schein believes that culture and leadership are two sides of the same coin and indispensable to one another. It is extremely hard to not only create a high-performance business team or sports team culture but sustain it when there is not a collective yearning amongst the team members to serve a purpose and/ a vision higher than themselves.
The collective and humble efforts of servant leaders whom aspire to something greater than themselves can be a very powerful multiplication factor to performance.
According to the book “Legacy” one of the most successful sports teams of all times, the All Black rugby team has a collective “mantra” that lifts the veil on their culture of excellence to a degree. It goes “Better people make better All Blacks”.
Sounds so simple, yet only a heightened level of self-awareness combined with the humility to admit to your personal challenges and to sincerely ask for mentorship can strengthen your will to become a better person. Better persons make better team members. Sustainable and consistent action that bring servant leadership principles to life can be the compound interest that forms a legendary business or sports team.
When we introspectively consider our personal success as servant leaders the reality is that we are only as successful to the degree that our team members are successful.
Now, the inevitable question to the reader – Will you serve?
Business Leadership: Leading A Culturally Diverse Business Team
The question every successful business leader needs to consider – How do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
As I witnessed the rain dancing against the window panes of the Mega mall in Midvalley, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I started reflecting on how to lead a culturally diverse business team.
Thousands of Malay, Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans passed me in the hallways of this gargantuan construction and the Dalai Lamas’ wise words reminded me that at the core of it all, irrespective of what your nationality is or what your belief system is, in general:
“We all want to experience joy and avoid suffering”
A key question that every team leader should carefully consider is how do we collectively experience joy and manage and/or avoid suffering as a business and as a team?
How can we as a diverse team be united in the joys of experiencing an expanding and successful business with a wonderful and constructive culture and avoid the suffering of a failing business and the negative experience of a toxic culture? These are of course ‘loaded’ questions because inherent within these questions are the birthing of other key challenges –
How can we as Leaders create a relatively stable and inspirational environment from within which it is easier for each individual to unlock their vast potential when vast differences in upbringing, schooling, world views, and religious beliefs exists within one team. Especially when considering the ever changing and evolving business environment within which we operate?
Fulfilling the role of a Business Leadership coach, trainer, or life coach as the situation demanded over several years I have coached, Lead, or trained Pilipino, Chinese, Malay, African, and European people. A very key learning from my experiences is that a “cross cultural and shared understanding” can be created that transcends any spoken language or any national culture.
This common language and culture has many elements but for the purpose of this article I will focus on the three key aspects:
Have a united and focused purpose
When a united and focussed purpose exists for the business team that they collectively place higher than themselves the barriers of differences in upbringing, schooling, and world views can dissolve within their shared purpose. As business leaders we cannot refer to purpose too much, even more importantly that that, we must be living, walking and talking examples of the businesses’ purpose.
To simplify the concept of purpose it can be said that purpose is the highest intent for, or the very good reason why we do what we do. That reason is or should be even more important than ourselves. When we really love what we do and sincerely so our performance is likely to be very good, on the other hand if we totally dislike the line of business that we are in or totally despise our role within an entrepreneurial venture we are likely not going to unleash our unlimited potential.
It could be argued that the sole purpose for having a business is to make a profit. Through this article I argue that that is not a strong enough reason to sustain you and make you thrive even through difficult times. The strange thing is that when you truly live your purpose with all your might and tirelessly inspire your team to do the same the money comes anyway…
Servant heart and attitude
Rabindranath Tagore famously said:
“I dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service was joy.”
A servant heart is universal and transcends cultural difference, a sincere and giving smile is a beautiful language of its own that needs no translation. If that ‘servant heart and smile’ is underpinned by well-developed people and technical skills it multiplies into a potent combination of character, experience, and wisdom that has great influential power within any culture.
Whether it is through the use of interpreters, and even if it takes great patience, even when a lot of mistakes are made, persevere until everyone in the team understands that servant leadership is the key to winning the minds and hearts of others.
When all in the team becomes aware that we were only ever meant to master ourselves and thereby become better servants to all, this heightened awareness can unlock the unlimited potential within individuals in the team.
Respect for people and their worldviews
My favourite poet Rumi said:
‘The wound is where the light seeps in’
Respect all as we could not understand each individuals’ pain and hardships unless we went through it ourselves. Have compassion for all as we, in general expect compassion when we go through hardships. We can only imagine what sets of beliefs we would entertain where we to grow up in a completely different culture.
My endless curiosity and determination to learn has served me well as a coach for when your interest in others is sincere they tend to ‘open up’ to you and share and thereby you fasttrack your own learning and gain insights into your co-team members worldviews which in turn greatly enhances the team dynamics.
Be authentic and acknowledge your vulnerabilities, ‘wounds’ and shortcomings and be proud of your strengths for then your team members will help you to overcome your weaknesses and learn from your strengths.
15 Ways To Command A Conversation Like A Boss
If you’re the one talking, it’s your responsibility to make sure others are listening.
Conversations can elicit a range of emotions. They may be daunting, or they may be dreaded. They may be awkward, or they may be monotonous. The good news is, you, as a participant in any conversation, have more control than you think about whether these emotions overtake the dialogue.
Having a successful conversation is about striking the balance between preparedness and flexibility, between explaining your thoughts clearly and knowing when to pause or check in. It’s about being upfront about your preferences and ideas while being open to adapting them based on what comes of the discussion.
A fruitful conversation stems from establishing a rapport with someone. Show them you know where they’re coming from. Clarify that you understand what they’ve said. Be respectful of their time and don’t dictate back to them how you perceive them to be thinking or feeling. Keep questions open-ended. Experiment with new conversation settings or styles. And don’t give in to the internal voices that try to convince you to defer too much or suffer in silence.
To help you get your points across and help others convey theirs, read through the following 15 tips, which expand more on the ideas above.
Being A Born Entrepreneur Doesn’t Automatically Mean You’re A Born Leader
The person who has the vision to start a company might not be the person to grow the company.
More often than not, we tend to think of entrepreneurship and leadership as synonymous qualities.
Entrepreneurs are expected to break new ground, be innovative, start something new. It only stands to reason they would naturally take charge of what they’ve created and lead it.
However, it turns out that the required skills of an effective entrepreneur are almost entirely different from the required skills of an effective leader. As many CEOs of growing companies can tell you, there’s a vast difference between creating a business and growing one.
One of the primary reasons great entrepreneurs including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford were so influential was precisely because they were both master entrepreneurs and leaders.
To successfully grow a business, an entrepreneur must learn how to become an effective leader. Here are the five leadership skills every entrepreneur must master:
Entrepreneurs, and especially solopreneurs, who run growing businesses are eventually shocked to realise it is impossible to do everything by themselves. Most entrepreneurs are uncomfortable with the idea of delegation. They want to do everything themselves because they have a natural sense of ownership over their work. They find it difficult to believe anyone else would do what needs to be done. After all, they were the ones who built the business from scratch all by themselves.
The reality is, though, as a business grows, so does the amount of work that needs to go into running it.
Leaders understand their own time and energy are finite resources. Great leaders understand that, to be most effective in the company, they must play to their strengths and delegate their weaknesses to others who are more qualified.
Steve Jobs famously played a very small part in building the OS and designing the original Apple computers. He knew how to grow a business, so he focused on what he could do and wisely left it to Steve Wozniak and his team to execute his vision.
The perk of being a lone wolf is that you know exactly what needs to be done and the right way to do it. But, that has to change when you find yourself a leader.
We all have horror stories of working for a manager who didn’t communicate instructions effectively, which inevitably leads to confusion and frustration from both parties. As a leader, you’ll need to clearly and succinctly explain everything from your vision to administrative tasks to your employees.
But, communication is not a one-way street. You need to know what to say and how to listen. Effective leaders don’t simply give orders. They accept feedback and criticism, as well.
A constant bridge of communication between a leader and an employee not only reduces inefficiencies but also leads to a healthier and more productive workplace for all.
Entrepreneurs seldom lack in the inspiration department. They were passionate enough to start a business themselves, but not everyone shares their enthusiasm. A key skill of any good leader is to inspire the people around them.
It’s not enough to simply tell people what their job is and expect them to do it. To get the most out of your team, you have to make them believe in your vision and feel like they’re actively making an impact in their role. This is especially important when working in a start-up.
The good news is that anyone can become an inspiring leader as long as they create a clear culture around the company’s vision, values, and beliefs.
When Howard Schultz returned to Starbucks as CEO, he quickly realised the majority of his employees were no longer focused on providing customers with a positive experience. This led him to shut down 7,100 stores one day to retrain all baristas on making an espresso. This bold move not only sharpened his employees’ technical skills, but also quickly brought Starbucks’ ultimate vision back into focus.
As an entrepreneur, you should be well aware of just how powerful a mentor can be to personal and professional growth. As a leader, if you want your employees to be as effective as possible, you need to do more than just give them orders.
Along with giving them the resources they need to do their job well, you also need to be able to help them move forward in their own careers.
This can be as simple as offering them training in skills they are interested in, giving them more responsibilities, or spending more one-on-one time with them. Leaders should be able to do more than just lead from the front; they have to be able to provide support from behind as well.
By adopting a coaching mentality, you can be assured of your employees’ loyalty to you and your vision. Plus, helping your employees achieve their full potential means they’re more likely be an asset to you and your business.
It should go without saying that being innovative and adaptive is key for entrepreneurs. But, instead of only using their knack for problem-solving on market opportunities, leaders are also focused on providing solutions for problems within the company.
A large part of running a growing company is learning how to deal with internal problems like employee disputes, disorganisation, or a lack of motivation. Employees will always look to the leader to solve these issues.
When no clear-cut solutions are present, leaders need to be able to think outside the box. One surefire way to quickly lose both the respect and trust of your employees is to outsource the solution to someone else or avoid responsibility by blaming others.
Last-minute changes and mishaps happen in any business, so it’s up to the leader to adapt quickly and show everyone else the right way to handle these situations.
If entrepreneurs who have the passion and innovation to start their own businesses can develop these five skills of great leaders, they will be most effective in leading those businessess into growth and a bright future.
Read next: What Kind Of Leader Are You?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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