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Leadership vs Servant

tycaltycal subscriber Posts: 2
edited January 2007 in Selecting a Business
Should a leader identify and meet the needs of their people (the employee) and serve them  or should they identify and meet the wants of their people (the employee) or both?  I ask that because of the way large corporations down sizes staff and treatment of customes in this country.


  • DravenDraven subscriber Posts: 2
    Here goes my maiden post, let`s see if I`m helpful....It`s a question of a company being able to provide appropriate value to employees commensurate with the value they bring to the company.  The job market is a free market just like open commerce between companies and their customers.  There needs to be an exchange where both parties experience a perceived value received at or above that which they provide.  All the same issues of retention, etc. come into play.As far as the difference between wants and needs, you could categorize the various aspects of the employee-employer relationship into these buckets, but either way it`s important to note that most employees are looking at their situation from their own point of view, not that of the company and it`s well-being.  It`s leadership`s job to think about things like sustainability and what current actions will translate into 5, 10, and 20 years down the road.  Company pensions are a good example.  I don`t believe in them.  They create ongoing financial burden on a company which only increases as time goes on.  Companies should be as lean as possible, and compensation beyond the basic benefit structure should be performance based.  If your salary is tied to good metrics that accurately measure your performance, you can contribute more to your 401K plan.  Now that`s a retirement benefit that encourages performance and doesn`t create incentives for "getting by" for so many years until a pension kicks in.  Plus, most of the time people who perform can create a much larger nest egg for themselves than they otherwise could in a company pension plan.I think it`s important to help all employees see the relationship between their benefits and their impact on the company.  A high-level view of the books should be open to them as much as is prudent in your particular situation.  Then they can see the chunk that every aspect of expenses takes out of the company`s ability to reinvest profits into growing, including benefits and other overhead costs.As far as lay-offs are concerned, while these are sometimes necessary due to market down-turns, etc.  many of these actions spawn from a cost-world school of thought on they part of management.  I`m an avid student of the Theory of Constraints by Eli Goldratt and all it`s implications in business.  I think this school of thought guides the way towards alternative approaches to dealing with market downturns in lieu of layoffs.  I would not have space to expound sufficiently here, but I would suggest reading "The Goal" if you want some insight into the concepts.  A broader and more in-depth description as it applies to general business practices is available in the book "What is this thing called the Theory of Constraints?"Another aspect that I think doesn`t get enough thought by companies are the costs of recruiting new high-value employees and the impact to morale.  Quantifying turnover cost is easy, but sometimes short-sighted executives would rather take a long-term hit for a short-term gain.  I haven`t researched methods of quantifying impact on morale, but this seems to be a much more difficult thing to estimate accurately.  The more value an individual employee can bring in your industry and their job role, the more impact on these two factors.  In a fast-food environment for example, there`s a limit on how much value an individual employee can deliver to your business.  In a software company on the other hand, a good programmer can be worth 5 so-so programmers.
  • keyconkeycon subscriber Posts: 34
    Or you suggesting a good leader (company owner, I guess you are implying) would never downsize? And what "treatment" of customers are you talking about? You are very vague. I`m not sure what answers or comments you are seeking. Please try to be more specific.
    Thanks - R@
  • NicoleCNicoleC subscriber Posts: 18
    If you are trying to evaluate serving as part of leading, then you might enjoy reading the December 26, 2007 Holiday Leadership Lessons on: http://www.danmulhern.com/wordpress/</A>
  • NicoleCNicoleC subscriber Posts: 18
    No leader ever "serves" the people being led. A good leader listens to the populace, takes advice into consideration, and also considers the human aspects of life, incentives, and so forth. But ultimately, the leader serves a mission, ideal, concept, or plan.
    I see your point but on some aspects I disagree.  Here is why I disagree: call me idealistic but I believe that leaders lead regardless of positional power.  For example, Rosa Parks wasn`t the first African American person to refuse to give up her seat on a bus but her actions were an effective catalyst for change.  She didn`t hold the position of a US President but none the less her actions impacted a nation.  My point is leaders imerge from all walks of life and often in call to a need of service.  It doesn`t matter if the call to service is for the public good, service to help a neighbor, or service to hold those within business/corporate "leadership", aka positional powers, accountable to be ethical and/or walk their talk.
  • DravenDraven subscriber Posts: 2
    CraigL, I`d have to say I disagree with some of your views as well.  It sounds like you lean toward theory X, and I`m theory Y."in a capitalist society, employees have NO say in what`s
    going on in the company!"    Put the capitalism down slowly and back away!   I feel like you`ve smeared the good name of one of my best friends!  Let`s talk about management theories instead, this has nothing to do with capitalism!    This could happen in a very, very theory X management environment.  But it`s just not prudent business practice to have ownership dictate everything and not listen to the people out there making things happen.  Ownership doesn`t always mean expertise.  In the case of layoffs in a fairly sizable company, a division head may be in the best position to make that decision even though they do not hold a majority position in the company.    Your employees are your best source of ideas and energy for moving the company forward.  Companies that do not have strong leaders and instead put theory X dictators in power don`t tap into this resource very effectively.  When people say they got tired of working for "the man," these theory X people are who they are talking about.  The most valuable people in theory X companies quit and start their own businesses!  It kills these people to know they have tons of value that their employer doesn`t care enough to tap into."No leader ever "serves" the people being led."    Personally, I think the only way to really lead is by serving people.  I`m not talking about slavery, I`m talking about voluntary service to others.  I`ve only managed people for about 5 years but found quickly that theory Y is definitely my style.  I believe that if you encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of your people, even inside a large organization, they will be motivated to innovate and work that much harder.  I`ve found that barking orders may get people to move, but usually grudgingly and with little long-term benefit.      I`m not saying a leader won`t have to take actions that don`t directly benefit their people, but they should always be looking out for their people`s best interested in balance with the rest of the business.  And guess what, sometimes firing a bad egg on your team is an act of serving your team and company as a whole.  Serving doesn`t mean you are a slave in any way, to the one or the many.    RealtorNicole, I think your response is right-on.  Leaders always serve the people they lead, whether there`s a position of authority attached to it or not.  I think CraigL is describing a manager and decision-maker, not a leader.  Making decisions doesn`t make you a leader, even if you`ve got great strategic foresight.  People have to be excited to follow you, and the best way to achieve that environment is leadership through service to the people.
    Draven2006-12-29 17:41:20
  • NicoleCNicoleC subscriber Posts: 18
    I think there is a hidden factor which differentiates between manager/decision maker and leaders.  It is a little thing called: EGO.  I have had the misfortune of working in a toxic environment which had a "top-down" management style; were the value of input was based on a person`s title not on the quality of concept/ideas; and where it was considered insubordination to ask questions or to raise questions on what appeared to be questionable conduct of superiors. 
    How many times within business and/or corporate structures are voices disenfrancished because it is "not how we do business" or because the idea was generated by a front line worker.  Within toxic environments voices get squashed, ego`s run rampant, and innovation barely gets off the ground.  I happen to suspect this occurs because the foundations of trust, respect and commadarity are either never established or at best are very minimal.
  • NicoleCNicoleC subscriber Posts: 18
    I agree with Draven in that the only way to truly lead is by serving people.  A person who serves others has to balance the good of: the company/business; their employees; the communities they operate in and/or impact; and their own interests. 
    I would like to elaborate on a prior posting in this discussion and request you please bear with me for a moment, if for no other reason then to understand where my opinions are coming from. Although anedotal, I have shared a personal experience because it engrained in me the importance of serving others. It also taught me what I never want to be as a leader and why leaders serving others matter. 
    As I stated before I worked in a toxic environment of top down management style of "leadership". It wasn`t uncommon for the "leaders" (executives and department heads) to give their friends and family jobs.  It can be fair to state on more then one occassion the "leaders" made decisions based on personal interests which benefited themselves, their friends and/or their family members.  Beside favortism and nepotism, the skillfully crafted written business practices had a significant degree of variance in how they were applied (or not applied).  Unlike others I didn`t turn blind eyes and deaf ears to watching people at and below my level cry in "secret" in the bathroom stalls.  Instead I starting talking to those I reported to.  When talking didn`t work I volunteered on workplace environmental committees, started helping the union organize,  and read articles on: organizational behavior, toxic managers, industrial organizational psychology, positive psychology, and management styles.  Along the way, I learned of the Great Place to Work Institute:
    The Great Place to Work Institute has conducted over 20 years of research.  They discovered that "trust between managers and employees is the primary defining characteristic of the best workplaces." 
    Interestingly enough the traits which impact the organizational well being of good/great v. toxic workplaces also depict the traits/characteristics of good v. toxic leaders.  As a result many of the workplaces which are indicated as being "great place to work" have programs and/or appear to value the workplace quality of life of their employees.  My point is, although not explicit, many of the traits of a "great place to work" and of good "leaders"  are indictive of "leaders" who serve others interests before their own.  RealtorNicole2006-12-31 1:33:48
  • NicoleCNicoleC subscriber Posts: 18
    What if we were to look at servant leadership from a different perspective? Could agreement be reached in that a leader and/or decision maker accomplishes more when they contribute to or set the tone for developing quality human relations?
    The reason I ask is because "Energize Your Workplace: How to Build and Sustain High-Quality Connections at Work" by Professor Jane Dutton examines the contrast of high quality relationships.  These high quality relationships generate and sustain energy; whereas corrosive work relationships drain employee morale and reduce an employees productivity.
  • NicoleCNicoleC subscriber Posts: 18
    Is this service?  It seems like it to me.  When the leader gets in the trenches and shows that he/she is willing to work, I absolutely think it`s service.  And it doesn`t degrade the leaders position at all - it enhances it. 
    I agree!
    However, I see Craigs point in how each of us have expressed our own interpretation or definition of "leader".  As a result there is a large margin for potential miscommunication.    
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