E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Social Business – Where Bosses and Managers Become Servant Leaders

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the SpringIn the past we have talked a couple of times about the undeniable impact that social networking (for business) is having in traditional management and thought leadership by helping reshape and redefine some of their various long time existing conceptions . There have been, indeed, a few great articles out there that not only have they assessed the importance and relevance of social technologies to help define the next generation of management, leadership and employee engagement, but they have also ventured to state, and rather accurately, how traditional management would need to keep moving on with its own social transformation, if it would want to survive over the course of time. Long gone are the days of command and control. Long gone are the days of micro-management, of managing by fear, power, bullying or mediocrity, or, just simply, by believing that the mantra “I am the boss; do what I say … or else!” would still work in today’s current business environment.

But if that’s the case I am sure at this point in time you folks would be probably wondering what’s the new role of leadership then in the world of Social Business? Can we define it nowadays in some sort of form or shape? Or will we have to create a new one altogether? Well, we may not. Once again, we may not need to go ahead and reinvent the wheel, since we may have had it all along over the last few hundred years and we never noticed… Welcome to the Era of Servant Leadership! 

Indeed, Servant Leadership is 

“[…] a management philosophy which implies a comprehensive view of the quality of people, work and community spirit. It requires a spiritual understanding of identity, mission, vision and environment. A servant leader is someone who is servant first, who has responsibility to be in the world, and so he contributes to the well-being of people and community. A servant leader looks to the needs of the people and asks himself how he can help them to solve problems and promote personal development. He places his main focus on people, because only content and motivated people are able to reach their targets and to fulfill the set expectations” (Quoted from Wikipedia’s reference article on the topic)

and while catching up last week with my good friend, the always insightful and equally thought provokingStowe Boyd I just couldn’t help thinking about how we may not need to redefine much what was already hinted hundreds of years ago about servant leaders, but perhaps just fine tune a little bit more the work carried out eventually by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 on this very same topic, as a way to help define what will be demanded of, a few decades later, Leaders 2.0 in the knowledge economy of the 21st century where social technologies have finally introduced wirearchy in the corporate world for it to stay, moving right along, with traditional hierarchy. 

And in that context I just couldn’t help thinking about this superb article at Inc.com under the suggestive heading “8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses” by Geoffrey James that has been making the rounds on various social networks out there and which clearly portraits the kind of shift that traditional management needs to make in order to help prepare the leaders of tomorrow, if not today altogether already. No, I am not going to spoil the fun and try to reproduce Geoffrey’s article with plenty of quotes here and there. On the contrary, I would like to encourage you all to have a look into that truly inspirational dissertation and be prepared to be wowed big time! As a teaser, here you have got the 8 Core Beliefs Geoffrey talks about, just to get you going: 

  1. “Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield
  2. A company is a community, not a machine
  3. Management is service, not control
  4. My employees are my peers, not my children
  5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear
  6. Change equals growth, not pain
  7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation
  8. Work should be fun, not mere toil”

Pretty powerful stuff, don’t you think? I am sure you would all agree with that assertion, but there is more, there is always more eventually!, because, just as I was putting together this article I bumped into a rather evoking image on Google Plus that can certainly help folks differentiate between traditional management, the boss, and this new kind of management, the leader

And as I kept reflecting on that transition from bosses to leaders as the one that is going to shape up management as we know it within the business world, and all of that thanks to social networking, amongst several other timely happenings, I just couldn’t help remembering, quite fondly, the absolutely stunning blog post that Kathy Sierra (Gosh, how much do I miss her mind-boggling blog posts!) shared over 6 years ago!! under the title “Manager 2.0” with this brilliant image that would surely resonate quite a bit with that of servant leadership:

I would happily recommend you all to go through Kathy’s article to realise how close Social Business has been all along, even right from the start!, on helping shape up the way we understand and embrace both management and leadership 2.0 nowadays, 6 years later, into something that perhaps we have been having all along, but that we just didn’t know it, or maybe that we have neglected and ignored for far too long. The reality is that if someone would be asking me to define the new role of leadership in today’s interconnected, instrumented, intelligent, engaged, smarter, trustworthy and transparent social business world the one single key concept that would keep coming up, in a recurring way, time and time again, would be what’s been there all along with us throughout history: Servant Leadership. 

And here is probably the toughest question of them all that will keep coming up repeatedly, now more than ever, and that we all need to try and find an answer for: in todays social business world are your / our current leaders servant leaders? And if they aren’t, what can we do to help prepare them?

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  1. Thanks,
    Great post,nice to read, a bit far from the reality, but you’re right, the BIG question is “what can we do to help prepare them?”
    Leadership is a one of the less shared quality and we have been used to consider the leader more as a person giving orders than serving, specially in Europe where the idea of service is not people’s DNA !
    Luis, do you believe that business schools and universities are working on this skills and preparing people to become servant leaders?

  2. Luis,
    Thanks for this great post!

    If I had to add something, I would say that servant leaders responsible managers and that “bosses” are irresponsible…

  3. The days of the old boss aren’t “long gone”. Their long-term effectiveness may well be, but I think you will find a great many of them in the majority of businesses.
    Until that cadre of management currently in their 50s has rotated out of the workforce these old ways will persist.
    Fresh blood at the top, or senior execs who buy the social business framework are the agents of change to speed this process up, it is difficult to make a change from the bottom up in such an environment.

  4. Nice post, Luis. The work by Greenleaf is great and still hardly understood and implemented…
    I also want to point to Jim Collins’ book ‘Good to great’. What he writes about Level 5 leadership also fits well on servant leadership. The great thing about this kind of leadership is that it leads to sustainable growth and great companies, as Collins shows. So, it’s not only more humand, but profitable as well. Managers and bosses will (hopefully) love that… 🙂

  5. Thanks for the link to this post. It is so true, a year later, and 6 years later. Absolutely the knowledge that I want to impart to the IBM Managers when I speak to them in June on empowering the digital workforce. All your inner links are great bits of knowledge too. I live the concept of “Being In Service” and that is what I see as your Servant Leadership. Now to get it into a ppt. Thanks as always.

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