On a more positive note . . . A Look at Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership, introduced by Robert Greenleaf over 20 years ago, remains a focus for a certain genre of leaders. Recently, Berrett-Kohler, which hosts the Servant Leader educational program, published a list of five leadership quotes. We thought we'd share them with you. Here's the first:

1. “The duty of a leader is to create an organization where it is easy to practice kindness.”
– Kim Cameron

Educator and author Kim Cameron has been credited as one of the founders of positive organizational scholarship (POS). In books such as Positive Leadership, he analyzes the social constructs, values, and processes that contribute to an organization’s success.

POS, which was named one of Harvard Business Review’s “Breakthrough Ideas for 2004,” measures the results of being good and practicing kindness. Cameron posits that an organization that practices kindness is more successful over time because it increases positive emotions and well-being, which, in turn, improve relationships and amplify employees’ abilities and creativity.

Kindness also fights against negative experiences such as stress and improves employees’ abilities to respond to challenges. Finally, it attracts employees and makes them more loyal to leadership. By practicing kindness, leaders can drive real results in a natural, positive way.


How Reliable is It?

On January 6, 2018, President Donald Trump tweeted:

....Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton
also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star.....to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that
would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!

The fact that these tweets fail the "leadership humility test" is noted; however, it seems that these statements could be a more powerful indicator of the reliability of self-assessment.

Some years ago, we ran across an article entitled "Flawed Self-Assessment: Implications for Health, Education, and the Workplace." It is a monumental work which analyzes years of research related to self-assessment and concludes with recommendations for policy, research, and instruments that are impacted by self-assessments.

An Overview of the Article

The actual article is almost 40 pages and includes over seven pages (two columns) of references.

Rather than trying to summarize, we provide you the summary of the article that is taked from the article. Note that you can download the article for personal use.

Click here for a copy of the summary.

So What?

Given what the authors tell us about the validity and reliability of self-assessment, there are surely implications for how we collect data on people we hire (or vote for) and the extent to which we can trust or rely on information individuals give us about themselves.

Take, for example, the job interview. The face-to-face (or virtual) interview is a common tool in the screening and selection process. We ask candidates to describe and evaluate their behavior and effectiveness in prior or current roles. 

How do we check the accuracy of those self-assessments? We call their references.

Have you ever listed a reference on your resume or vita you knew would give you a poor rating or reveal some major issues  you have as a manager or leader? Further, time after time, our clients who will check references, no longer rely heavily on getting information about the downside of a candidate.

Why not?

Nobody wants the legal hassle and cost of truth-telling in the case of a flawed candidate.

In a previous post, we wrote briefly about confirmation bias-the tendency to believe data that fit our pre-conceived notions about something and to reject that which is not consistent.

Now What?

So, we not only have the issue of self-assessments, but also the fact that many people will accept or reject those assessments on the basis of their current notions.

Rather than make grand claims or far-reaching recommendations, we simply recommend that you consider exploring the topic of self-assessment and consider how what we are learning impacts your life, organization, and work.

P.S. We will also make a pitce for using tools like the Leadership Effectiveness Analysis 360º Survey where you not only get self-perceptions, but also ratings of observers like the boss, peers, and direct reports. Such tools by no means eliminate the phenomena of self-assessment or confirmation bias, but provide some hard numbers to help one get a sense of the individual's personal behavior as well as a measure of how one's self-perceptions align with those of others who know her or him.


Essential Elements of Effective Organizations

Based on the Foundations of Mission, Vision, and Values, there are three core elements to an organization's effectiveness: Strategy, Organizational Culture, and Leadership.

Business Strategy

The strategy is the long-term approach to achieving the organization's mission and vision. It is the basis for setting overall priorities, identifying resource requirements, creating annual operating plans, etc.

Organizational Culture

The organization's culture is generally defined as a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations. An organization's culture is a powerful force in determining how people behave and, ultimately, how the organization performs.


Interestingly, leadership is directly connected to both strategy and culture. Leadership is responsible for developing strategy and for overseeing its execution. In addition, Edgar Schein, best known for his work on culture and leadership, maintains that leadership both creates and maintains an organization's culture.

The Point?

In many organizations—for profit, not-for-profit, and government—the vast majority of energy and resources are dedicated to strategy. This means that there is often not a lot of attention paid to the culture and leadership elements of the organization's performance.

Ram Charan, the noted consultant to corporations and executives, said that organizations do not fail primarily because the don't have a strategy, they have because the don't execute. In Execution he said: “. . . when first published in 2002, [it] was based on our observation that the discipline of getting things done was what differentiated companies that succeeded from those that just muddled through or failed.”

We have dedicated decades of work to the culture and leadership factors and continue to assert that if these two elements are not aligned with strategy, eventually the overall performance of the enterprise will suffer.

P.S. The Foundations and Core Elements are all related to Products (Services), People, Processes, and Customers (Clients)


Dante's Cubicle
Where corporate reality meets the mystical

This book could be a hybrid of Studs Terkel's Working and Scott Adams's Dilbert. There's a third element influenced by the works of Joseph Campbell, Don Miguel Ruiz, Daniel Quinn, Wes Nisker, Angeles Arriens, Willis Harman, Wolf Storm, Shinzen Young, Ken Wilber, Thomas Kuhn, Daniel Millman, Miguel De Cervantes, Richard Back, Margaret Wheatley, Ben Hamper, Fritjof Capra, Stanley Herman, Gary Zukav, and countless others.

This book takes real-life incidents from America's workplaces and plays them out in the Archangel Corporation. Michael, the "new kid on the cubicle block" tells the story as we witness how classical business activities play out at the front line of the organization.

Then, Michael is gifted with an intervention from an unknown, unnamed source (or Source). This cyber-source, who came to be known as Raphael, provides Michael with explanations and alternative views on what is occurring in his worklife.

We think it's a good read and will provide some views you may not have encountered or some stories you may not have considered.For more insights into the content of Dante's Cubicle, click here.

If you wish to purchase electronic or hard copy, click on the cover below.