Ken Blanchard is:
- Co-author of the breakthrough best-selling book, The One Minute Manager
- Co-founder the global leadership development organization, Lead Like Jesus
- An A+ communicator with 3 timeless leadership insights for you!
While sitting with Ken Blanchard, there were at least 500 questions I wanted to ask him. Yet, with limited time, I chose to ask the one question that could yield the greatest practical benefit to all the leaders reading this post, including you:
Ken, given that you’re a friend, coach and mentor with a number of senior pastors of large churches and leaders of Christian organizations, what is the biggest leadership challenge of our day?”
Ken’s response might surprise you:
- “Quite simply, as leaders, we need to understand what Jesus meant when he said, ‘I have come to serve, not be served.’ As leaders, we need to rediscover the power and practice of servant leadership.
- “The big issue is that a lot of leaders haven’t really clarified what their ministry organization is all about. Without clear values and goals to guide their journey, they work from week to week, or month to month, without a sense of where they’re going.
- “But there’s a second issue: As leaders, once we set our vision, we confront the challenge of turning the pyramid upside down—not to be served, with command and control, but rather to serve others. When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples he was showing them the servant part of servant leadership. He wasn’t giving up his position or authority; essentially, he was saying, “What I’ve done for you, you need to do for others.”
I asked Ken, “So, how does a leader go all-in on servant-leadership and, as you like to say, lead like Jesus?”
As Ken tells us, servant leadership involves three questions:
1. Are you open to feedback that can improve your culture?
“I’ve always believed that feedback is the breakfast of champions. To be a servant leader, you need to know what you and your people are doing well—and you have to know what you need to do better.
“It’s like a high-jumper trying to make the Olympics team, but no one tells him how high he’s already jumping and how much he needs to improve to make the team.
“After our church in southern California took the BCWI Employee Engagement Survey, we found what we were doing well and what we needed to work on—like bettering our communications and compensation of our staff.
“Feedback is synonymous with the BCWI survey as part of a leader’s commitment to improve the organization’s culture. If you don’t have a good culture and an engaged workforce, then even the best strategy in the world isn’t going to have the caliber of people needed to implement it. As the legendary Peter Drucker said, ‘Culture eats strategy for lunch.’”
2. Do you want to lead humbly like Jesus?
“I have a lot of respect for great work done by Alcoholics Anonymous. At Lead Like Jesus, we developed an Egos Anonymous. The acronym redefines the word ‘ego’ as ‘edging God out.’ At the meeting, I stand up and say, ‘Hi, I’m Ken, and I’ an egomaniac.’ Then I give an example of where my ego has gotten in the way. Either I’ve had a ‘more than’ attitude of false pride, (feeling smarter than, better than someone), or I’ve had a ‘less than’ attitude of false humility (not feeling as smart or better than someone).
“Servant leadership is not about focusing on yourself, but learning to trust the unconditional, forgiving love of God, who comes to us humbly in Jesus. Fred Smith, the founder, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx, says people with humility don’t think less of themselves, they just think about themselves less. They don’t deny their power or skills, they just recognize that their power and skills are not from them, but rather pass through them.”
3. Do you look forward to praising others?
“If someone told me he or she would take away everything I’ve ever taught over the years, I would hold onto the second secret in The One Minute Manager.
“The key to building a great organization is to wander around and see if you can catch people doing something right and then give that person a one-minute praise.
“If a leader doesn’t see a person’s performance is quite up to snuff, he or she can go to that person and ask, ‘Do you mind if I share an observation with you?’ (asking permission to offer feedback). Once the person sees the observation for himself, the leader can say, ‘Let me help you get back on track.’ Now, that’s the humility of an effective servant leader at work!”
When servant leadership is alive and well, there can be no shortage transformative, God-blessed outcomes, as long God’s humble people hold on to one truth. Ken Blanchard says it best: “If you want to follow after Jesus and be a servant leader, then go to the gospels, because there you will meet and be led by the greatest leadership model of all time.”