Business Leadership Styles: What’s the latest fashion?

June 28, 2018 - 10:50am
David Parker

Along with the returning of the swallows and the running of the grunions, there’s another momentous natural phenomenon that occurs without fail on an annual basis: the releasing of the bull. Also known as the publication of the latest New York Times bestseller introducing a revolutionary, new, can’t miss system/philosophy/religion for business success and leadership.

Through the years, we’ve been told by the gurus of attaining business nirvana to deal artfully, tip our points, release our inner giant, hug our inner child, power-up our inner outlier, break the rules, move the cheese, breed the purple cow.

We’ve been instructed to be relentless, to dare, to think and grow rich, to crush it, to be true to our grit, to start being unstoppable, to act wolfish (or is it wolf-like?).

We’ve been exposed to the transitional magic of 1-minute management, 4 agreements, 5 essentials, 10X rules, 48 laws, even the secrets of 6-figure women (which I’m hoping relates to salary). 

So, which success philosophy du jour is THE ONE to take to heart? Which sect of leadership discipleship does one pledge their allegiance? What tribal flag of business belief do we plant in our corporate courtyard?

It’s a no-brainer to conclude there is no singularly superior selection. As usual, finding the best answer involves questions. Applying a litmus test of personal goals and beliefs is a good first step:

Is it foundationally strong or a trend wrapped in a fad?  In other words, will it stand the test of time?
Is it one that transcends the workplace and rings true in every facet of life, so you don’t have to wear a mask for half your day?  
Does it point in the same direction as your moral compass?

In a recent interview in the San Antonio Business Journal, Julia Taylor Cheek, Founder of EverlyWell, was asked what was the best business advice she’d ever received. Her reply was this gem from one of her business professors: “It’s easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.”

Even though we don’t formally label it as such, the basic business principles we adhere to at Texas Creative are firmly rooted in the landscape of Servant Leadership.

The term seems to be a textbook example of an oxymoron. Unless you’re Mr. Carson, dutifully commanding the downstairs staff at Downton Abbey, how can you be both a servant and a leader?

The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership defines it as “a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. It is not about being servile, it is about wanting to help others. It is about identifying and meeting the needs of colleagues, customers, and communities.”

Wow. Sign me up. Can you imagine what it would be like if political leaders (world-wide) and major corporations actually followed this philosophy and practiced these principles? Mind-boggling.
I know. It all sounds very kumbaya. (Or as we like to say in Texas, kumbaya’ll). But when you start drilling down into the principles of Servant Leadership, you realize they’re pretty parallel to what you learn in self-help books about being a good parent, spouse or friend:

  • Be authentic
  • Be vulnerable
  • Be accepting
  • Be present
  • Be useful  

According to Larry C. Spears, former president of the Greenleaf Center, these are the 10 most important characteristics of servant leaders:

  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Healing
  • Awareness
  • Persuasion
  • Conceptualization
  • Foresight
  • Stewardship
  • Commitment to the growth of people
  • Commitment to building community

I don’t know about you, but I would gladly follow someone (or a company) with those character traits in their DNA. Because you can be assured the course they set would be true north.

The concept of Servant Leadership also plays well with others. Using it as the bedrock or foundation of your operating philosophy gives you the freedom to explore and complement it with other, more tactically oriented management tools and systems. And you can implement them without having to retool your identity or bottom line beliefs. 

If you’re interested in diving deeper into the subject of Servant Leadership, insightful, thoughtful and inspiring information is available at Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership or To Serve First.

Or you can just read one of the best books about success and leadership ever written: ALL I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN.


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