Why Leaders Can’t Be Loners

Early in my business career, I was a loner. I worked hard and was polite to others, but I never connected with colleagues. I never opened up to reveal what I was feeling. It was all business. I kept my head down and “nose to the grindstone.” I had done well in college and grad … Read more

Ethical Leadership: Our Gamechanger

(This presentation was given on April 27, 2022, by Bob Vanourek at the University of Denver’s Elevate Ethics 2022 Event, hosted by the Daniels College of Business and the Institute for Enterprise Ethics.) “Elevate Ethics.” What a wonderful title. I want to speak tonight about ethical leadership, my passion. How can we be more ethical … Read more

How to Become a Better Servant Leader

Decades ago, Robert Greenleaf articulated one of the most important leadership frameworks in history: “servant leadership.” Greenleaf described the essence of this counterintuitive approach here: “The servant leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from … Read more

Why Maximizing Shareholder Value is Wrong

A big debate has been raging about the purpose of business for decades. Two opposing theories dominate the discussion: shareholder primacy theory and stakeholder theory. How does Robert Greenleaf’s servant leadership framework fit with these models?   Shareholder Primacy Theory In 1970, Milton Friedman (a noted conservative economist at the University of Chicago) wrote an … Read more

Unleashing Leaders in Your Organization

In his classic essay, “The Servant as Leader,” Robert Greenleaf (creator of the servant leadership framework), wrote the following: “Anyone can lead…. There is a problem of getting used to the idea of no single chief, but the passage of time will allay that.” -Robert Greenleaf  This short statement has profound implications.   Empowerment Historically, … Read more

The Paradoxes of Servant Leadership

Leadership is rife with paradoxes, seemingly self-contradictory statements that may nonetheless be true. We see this in the servant leadership framework as well as other approaches.   The Servant-as-Leader Paradox In his biography of Robert Greenleaf (originator of servant leadership), author Don Frick said: “Servant and leader are two nouns which usually describe two quite … Read more

Do I Have to Be a Servant Before I Can Lead? (On Servant Leadership)

Robert Greenleaf was clear when he created the servant leadership framework: “ … the great leader is seen as servant first.… the only authority deserving one’s allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the … Read more

The Essential Qualities of Servant Leadership

In the years since Robert Greenleaf first published his essay, “The Servant as Leader,” many notable authors and experts have built upon his work. As expected, servant leadership in theory and practice has evolved over time as the context of leading has changed. Here we’ll summarize Greenleaf’s original ideas on servant leadership, recap what some … Read more

Why Servant Leaders Outperform Bosses

One of the most common structures used in organizations over the ages is based on a hierarchical model of bosses and subordinates. It likely has its origin in military command-and-control units. In this model today, every person reports to someone else, except the one at the top of the hierarchy who reports to a board. … Read more

How Robert Greenleaf Created Servant Leadership

Robert Greenleaf was the founder of the servant-leadership movement. But who was this self-effacing man? Why did Stephen R. Covey say, “… I have found Robert Greenleaf’s teachings on servant leadership to be so enormously inspiring, so uplifting, so ennobling.” With no grand title or celebrity, how did Greenleaf, a self-described introvert, create this world-wide … Read more

Who Determines If You’re a Leader?

Are you a leader if you’re a boss with people who report to you? If you’re a military officer with personnel subject to your orders? Are you a leader if a nonprofit board hires you as their Executive Director? Who determines if you’re a leader? In the late 1960s and 1970s, Robert Greenleaf (1904-1990), a … Read more

Tribute to General Jack Chain—An Extraordinary Leader

A great leader and our dear family friend, Four-Star Air Force General John T. (Jack) Chain died peacefully in his sleep this month at the age of 86. All who knew Jack mourn his loss and are grateful for the time he had with us. Jack and his dear wife Judie were neighbors of Bob … Read more

To Lead Well

A poem by Bob Vanourek Summarizing Great Leadership “To Lead Well” by Bob Vanourek I’ll start within, Cultivating quality character, Acting with integrity, Listening with my heart, Composed amid chaos, A soul flooding forth with love. I’ll reach out, Caring and connecting, Serving, Engendering trust, Building relationships, Unleashing others who soar. I’ll step up, Saying … Read more

Ethical Leadership–Your Game Changer

Embracing ethical leadership can be a game changer in your life, as it was for me. But just what is ethical leadership? And how does ethical leadership differ from ordinary leadership and management? Management involves planning, budgeting, and administering. Management watches the bottom line of the organization, focusing on, for example, profitability for a business. … Read more

The Keys to Success

What are the keys to success? I pondered this question when asked to speak at the recent GlenX Success Summit in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. My task was to define the X Factor that, combined with IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional intelligence), would lead to success, happiness, fulfillment, and achieving one’s best self. A tall … Read more

A Leadership Lightning Bolt

by Bob Vanourek Early in my leadership quest to “find a better way to lead,” I had the wonderful pleasure to work for Jan and Olga Erteszak, Polish immigrants who had fled the Nazis in Europe and then founded a ladies’ lingerie company in Los Angeles. The Olga Company was the creative leader in this … Read more

Leadership Lessons from The Lord of the Rings

Leaders Venture into the Unknown “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Bilbo Baggins Leaders Step Up “I will take the Ring,” Frodo said, “though I do not know the way.” … Read more

Bucket Filler or Bucket Dipper?

Jack & Ben with Triple Crown

“Sprinkle joy.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson Jack, Bob’s seven year-old grandson and Gregg’s nephew, came home from school recently talking about buckets. In this metaphor, we all carry invisible buckets holding our feelings and sense of worth. When our buckets are full, we feel good. When empty, we feel sad. A bucket filler fills the buckets … Read more