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Reflections from ‘Higher Level Leadership’ with Ken Blanchard

Boris Joaquin

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Reflections from ‘Higher Level Leadership’ with Ken Blanchard
Here are some of my key takeaways about servant leadership

The national elections are just around the corner. Names have been floated, and political maneuverings have begun. Looking at where our country has been, we must be more discerning.

Listening to influential leadership expert Dr. Ken Blanchard last August 4 during our Rappler Hustle webinar – in which he brought along his mentor Phil Hodges as a bonus – left me reflecting on my own leadership. As he talked about servant and situational leadership, I challenged both standards when developing other organizational leaders and my choices for our next national leaders. 

Here are some of my key takeaways about servant leadership from that conversation:

‘Great leaders are great because people trust and respect them, not because they have great power

This was something Ken’s dad, a former Navy admiral, taught him in Ken’s first leadership role: as president of 7th grade. He said, “Ken, your leadership training begins now. Now that you’re president don’t ever use your position (to benefit yourself).” 

Servant leadership inverts the pyramid 

A servant leader provides leadership by providing vision, direction, and values to his people and then turns the pyramid upside down by serving his people to help them win.

Ken explains: “There two parts to servant leadership. There’s vision, direction, values, and goals. Because leadership is about going somewhere, that’s the leadership part of servant leadership. It’s got to come from the hierarchy, but it doesn’t mean you don’t involve your people. If your people aren’t clear about what they’re being asked to do, what good behavior looks like, that’s your fault. 

Now, once that’s clear, it’s your responsibility now to turn the pyramid upside down. You work for them. And your job is to say, ‘How can I help you? I’m here to help you win.’ This is the servant part of servant leadership. “

‘The key to developing people is to catch them doing something right’

Servant leaders believe in their people and in what they can contribute. They do not think they have a monopoly of brains and ability. 

“The big disadvantage with self-serving leaders is that they think all the brains are in their office, and as a result, really good people leave. People think, ‘Why am I even going to make a suggestion, when nobody listens to (me) around here anyway?’ And you lose the benefit of all the people that are gathered around you,” Blanchard explained. 

Instead, servant leaders develop their people by affirming them and helping them win. “When they realize that you’re on their side – you’re not walking around with your arms folded and and trying to put them in some normal distribution curve – they are fully engaged. They feel that they are really a part of your team.”  

‘Profit is the applause you get for creating a motivating environment for your people so that they will take good care of your customers

A lot of people think that the reason for being in business is to make money. Profit is not the reason to be in the business. “[In] great companies I know around the world, their number one customer is their people! If you take care of your people, train your people, and love your people, they will get out of their way to take care of your second most important customers: the people who use your products and services – and then they too become part of your sales force.” 

A lot of people think that when they look at results and relationships, it’s an “either-or.” It’s got to be “both-and.” 

‘There is no one best leadership style: You need different strokes for different folks. We also need different strokes for the same folks on different parts of their job

Situational leadership is something you don’t do to people; you do it with them. You want to teach them the model, have them with you in analyzing their development, their goals, and determine the appropriate leadership style. Situational leaders think in terms of “we,” not “me.” 

Jesus was a situational leader because He changed His style as the disciples grew. In His first commission, He told them where to stay, where to go, what to do; then you start to see Him move to a kind of a coaching style where He gradually gives support to people. Then, finally, what do you see in the end when you know Jesus is going to leave? He not only gets down on His knees and washes their feet and says, “You call me Teacher, You call me Lord, and rightly so. But just as you have seen Me do, do for others.”

Servant leadership requires humility and God-grounded confidence. First of all, servant leaders have the humility to admit to their people that they don’t have all the answers and that together with their people, they can come up with solutions. 

“People admire your skills, but they love your vulnerability,” Ken said as he quoted co-author Colleen Barrett (Lead with Luv: A Different Way to Create Real Success). 

We all need mentors

The important thing is to ask people. If they give it to you, that’s great! If they don’t, even if you asked, you don’t really lose anything. Go ask somebody else. If your leader is not willing to mentor you towards growth, find another mentor.

Servant leaders recognize their need to get their egos out of their way in delivering good results and developing great human relationships. 

Ken shared, “I always say to people, ‘If you can’t think of a time when your ego got in the way in the last week, you lie about other things too.’ It’s a real element, and we really have to work on it too.” The more you admit to your ego – your pride or fear – the more you get on top of it. 

Instead of leading with your ego, Phil gave this challenge: “And now let me show you a more excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31).” Love as you are loved. Don’t be motivated by fear and pride. This is love-based leadership. 

Servant leaders recognize their accountability before God

To national leaders, Phil describes the weight of both their responsibility and accountability: “You’ve been given a level of responsibility to be obedient to the values of the One you follow. God didn’t make it secular or sacred: it’s all sacred. If He’s given work to you to do, do it honorably.” 

Both of them point out that leaders need to develop the ability to reflect. Ken brought up how it’s lamentable these days how tasks and to-do have taken over our lives from the moment we jump out of bed. “Instead, a servant leader develops the habit of entering his day slowly… to calm down and think about the day and who you want to be.” 

“At the end of the day, think about things to praise God about, redirections, and future acts to keep oneself recalibrated on who we ought to be,” Ken added.

The world is in desperate need of servant leaders

“We’ve seen what self-serving leaders have done in every segment of society around the world, and what we need are leaders that are there to serve, rather than be served,” emphasized Ken Blanchard.

Both bring up how Jesus exemplifies servant leadership and how he transformed 12 incompetent men “that we probably would never have hired” and made them leaders in their own right, evangelizing around the world.

We are just stewards of our leadership roles: the more we think less of ourselves, the more we make every moment count. In years of looking at leadership, the issues are still the same. It will start in the heart of the leader. And the question of whether we’re seeking to serve or be served is a universal question that needs to be answered,” Phil Hodges added. 

“Effective servant leadership is an inside-out job,” Ken said in summary.

Even as we use these servant leadership principles as a guidepost in choosing our next national leaders, may these challenge us to become better leaders ourselves. –

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