Servant Leadership: A Way To Authentic Power and Prosperity
May 15, 2012
The master accumulates nothing but the more he does for others, the greater his existence
~ Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching
Do you believe you can effortlessly ride the path to prosperity – living in a state of wealth, balance and ease?
Over the past few months, I’ve been actively working on my new keynote and book, A New Path To Prosperity, which is the first book to explore the psychological and social conditioning that causes destructive leadership behaviors (including CEO greed), while offering 7 concrete practices for transcending strife, and becoming a powerful leader that drives positive change.
It’s modeled on my own transformative journey from accumulating financial wealth, to losing it all – with profound suffering, then emerging into a new and broader prosperity – that encompasses not only the financial, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual realms as well as.
The core message is this: it’s not just all about you.
My problem was I believed that prosperity was something that could be appropriated – by cleverly acquiring the right resources and deploying them through an intelligent strategy. What I missed, and what I see so many others miss, is the awareness that in every moment we are in a relationship – certainly with major stakeholders – employees, customers, investors, vendors, community and planet – but also with all beings on the planet. Companies are nature. Made up of human beings, living in human nature. And physicists now confirm – we are all interconnected.
Therefore, if we interact thinking “it’s just all about us”, we are creating an imbalance in nature that will ultimately lead to failure. Because we are denying the actuality of the relationships that are already happening.
The first of the 7 leadership practices that leaders must inculcate, on a path to real prosperity, is servant leadership. Standing inside the intention of being in service to another human being – not just as a means to profit – but because we care about their well being. This is also a potent antidote to the toxic behavior of craving and greed that causes so much stress and disturbance in organizations and society.
3 Steps to Servant Leadership
1. The first step is to let go of the illusion that strategy with the intention to appropriate and accumulate will lead to prosperity. This is my big life lesson and I struggle with it most days. While I understand there’s a huge cultural force that stands in the way of seeing truth here, I also know first-hand, that this attitude is the breeding ground for greed and can never bring fulfillment – just the illusion of fulfillment.
2. The second step is to monitor your intentions. Witness them without judgment. Ask yourself, am I coming from a place of “not enough”, a place of “gotta get more to fill me up”, a place of scarcity, a place of lack? This is “all about me” thinking, and cannot lead to prosperity. These intentions will crowd your mind, and leave little room for the creativity and awareness of greater opportunity that does lead to prosperity. When you find yourself mired in scarce, competitive, adversarial thinking – a small constrictive space – redirect your focus to serving your stakeholders, as per step 3.
3. The third step is to refocus on any of your six core stakeholder groups (employees, customers, shareholders, vendors, community, environment). A leader’s scorecard is simple: Top line, bottom line, cash flow, strategy/vision, and people. Growth in these 5 areas drives shareholder value. And if you focus on serving the interests of all stakeholders, it’s the most efficient path to optimizing each of your scorecard objectives, increasing shareholder value, and greater prosperity for all.
I explain this in more detail in the this four minute video.
We all have a small self driven by our egos, and a larger Self representing our greatest future possibility. The mind based ego will always modulate between feeling less than or more than – two deeply false beliefs amplifying mental noise, and mitigating against us realizing our greatest future possibility.
Yet in every moment we have a choice, to indulge our egos, or to serve our greatest future possibility – which in business, is often about serving our various stakeholders – understanding they are an interrelated, inter-dependent holistic value system.
And if we can imbibe an inner attitude of caring – customer care, employee care, supplier care, community care, environmental care – and combine that with smart strategy, discipline, focused execution and accountability – this is the yin and yang of leadership – a powerful blueprint for prosperity.