Boards and Servant Leadership

Writing a half-century ago, Robert Greenleaf already saw a new and more active role for board members.* In his groundbreaking book, Servant Leadership, Greenleaf had a chapter on “Trustees as Servants.” He wrote: “This chapter is an argument in support of trustees choosing to be servants.” Greenleaf felt organizations (and their boards) were underperforming: “… … 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

How Great Leaders Reward, Recognize, and Celebrate People

“There are two things people want more than sex and money—recognition and praise.” -Mary Kay Ash, founder, Mary Kay Inc. It’s not enough to recruit and develop exceptional people. Triple crown leaders—ones who build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations—must also recognize, celebrate, and reward them effectively through their culture.   The Right Kind of Rewards … Read more

Great Leaders Develop People Intentionally

Triple crown leaders—ones who build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations or teams—focus not just on recruiting great people but also developing them intentionally. They focus on developing people systematically and continually. Unfortunately, many leaders fail miserably when it comes to developing people. Most organizations leave development mostly up to individuals, acting on their own initiative, … Read more

How Great Leaders Recruit People with Heart

Penguins lining up for interviews

“Acquiring and keeping good people is a leader’s most important task.” –John Maxwell, leadership author How much scrutiny do you use in assessing people for your team? What do you look for? And how? Triple crown leaders—ones who build organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring— systematically recruit people with specific characteristics. They invest their … Read more

The Importance of Heart in Leadership

head and heart

In “triple crown leadership,” our framework focused on building organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring, both head and heart are required for exceptional leadership. In most workplaces, it’s almost all head power. We need much more heart power in leadership. The way most leaders go about identifying and developing talent is utterly insufficient for … Read more

What We Can Learn from the Olympics about Life and Leadership

With the Olympics underway­­­—with all the competition, drama, and intrigue—what can we learn from them not only about excellence and teamwork but also about life and leadership? Sure we admire the grueling physical feats and the mental preparation. The years of punishing practices, discipline, focus, and skill-building that go into the nine-second sprint, the epic … 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

Leadership for the Long Haul—The Endurance Imperative

It’s one thing for an organization to achieve outstanding results. It’s another thing to do so ethically. And it’s another thing altogether to get outstanding results ethically and to sustain it over time. “Enduring” is the third imperative of what we call “triple crown leadership” (excellent, ethical, and enduring). By “enduring,” we mean standing the … Read more

Leadership and the Excellence Imperative

Getting results is one of the preeminent tasks of leadership. What we call “triple crown leadership” (from our book of the same name) seeks not just any results, but excellent results—exceptional outcomes. It strives for the pinnacle of performance. (Our “triple crown leadership” model has three aims: excellent, ethical, and enduring. Leaders should begin with … Read more

Leadership and Psychological Safety in Teams

The problems in far too many organizations today are legion: Unproductive, boring meetings Astonishing amounts of wasted time Avoidance of sensitive issues Lack of full engagement Reluctance to provide candid, constructive feedback Political games and hidden agendas Sound familiar? The effects are far-reaching, from low quality work to employee turnover. According to a Corporate Executive Board … Read more

How to Give Effective Feedback—A Communication Superpower

Giving effective feedback is a powerful skill. When done well, it can be a big performance booster. When done poorly, a disaster bringing fear, discomfort, and resentment. At its best, feedback is a great gift that can build trust and respect. At its worst, a spiral to anguish and despair. So tread carefully. According to … Read more

The Power of Empathy in Leadership

These days, we ask much of our leaders. Organizations and governments are under great pressures to perform, and these days leaders are responsible for crisis management during a pandemic with its attendant economic destruction and social and emotional anxiety. More and more we are realizing that empathy is a powerful aspect of leading well. Empathy … Read more

The Importance of Integrity in Leadership

Leadership involves so many difficult challenges and exceptional behaviors and mindsets. These days, we ask much of our leaders. When I ask workers to quickly name the qualities that arise in their minds when they hear the word “leader,” I am instantly assaulted by a barrage of words: vision, charisma, confidence, clarity, responsibility, results, judgment, emotional … Read more

The Importance of Trust in Leadership

There are many ways to think about leadership. For some, as we have seen, it is about control or power. For others, it is about achievement or recognition. For others, thankfully, it is about people and service, along with higher purpose and positive impact. Since leadership by definition involves a relationship between leaders and followers—and, more … Read more

The Importance of Credibility in Leadership

Credibility: the quality of being worthy of belief and trust Credibility, which flows from character and competence, is one of the most essential aspects of leadership. High credibility is a tremendous asset for leaders seeking to achieve exceptional performance and positive impacts. Low credibility is devastating. Credible leaders are straight with people, even about hard … Read more

The Root Cause of Ethical Failings (and Our Political Dysfunction)

Scandals. Fraud. Abuse of power. Greed. Corruption. Tax evasion. Coverups. Once rare occurrences, coming back to haunt us every decade or so, these are now front and center in our daily lives and our daily news cycle. We see them in government, in business, and even in nonprofits and some religious organizations. It seems as … Read more

The Most Important Questions for Leaders

Leading others well can be a great challenge. It requires courage, judgment, wisdom, emotional intelligence, integrity, and much more. Leadership excellence comes with experience, but it begins with intentionality and commitment. Here are the most important (four) questions to help ground your leadership in a powerful foundation, whether you are a new leader learning the ropes … Read more

The Keys to Great Meetings

by Bob Vanourek One of the mind-numbing miseries of organizational work is the time spent in meetings. Atlassian, an Australian enterprise software company, provides the following estimates from various sources: Most employees attend 62 meetings/month (staggering) and half the meetings are considered time wasted Regarding the average meeting attendee: 91% have daydreamed during meetings 39% … Read more

How to Change Your Organizational Culture

Most leaders understand that organizational culture is important. But many struggle with how to change and improve their culture. For too many leaders, culture is too ethereal, too hard to measure, too intangible. So, they muddle along with speeches, slogans, or projects, but their organizational culture refuses to budge. That’s unfortunate because your ideal culture … Read more

Is Your Business Stuck in Zombieland?

by Bob Vanourek “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Attributed to Albert Einstein U.S. government statistics tell us that about half of all new businesses will be gone within five years. Of course, some businesses become successful, often within a few years. These are the models all … 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

Does Your Business Need an Advisory Board?

“I was not sure where I was going … But you saw further and clearer than I, … to a place I had never dreamed of …” -Thomas Merton The sad reality is that most businesses fail. The quoted failure rates vary, but they are all dismal. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says, “About … Read more

10 Keys to Self-Leadership

  We face a barrage of challenges these days: astonishing technological change, intense competition, a barrage of demands on our attention, tension between work and home, and more. There is one meta-skill that shapes how we respond to all these challenges: self-leadership. Without it, we cannot sustain ourselves for long. Leading self may be obvious, … 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

Interviewing for Emotional Intelligence

In our award-winning book, Triple Crown Leadership, we reveal five advanced leadership practices for building an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization. The first of these is to recruit, develop, and promote people for both “head and heart.” Head involves the education, knowledge, skills, technical competence, and experience necessary for the work. Heart involves integrity, emotional … Read more

Leadership Wisdom: Book Release

Bob’s newest book, Leadership Wisdom: Lessons from Poetry, Prose, and Curious Verse, will be released by Motivational Press soon. The book is a compendium of timeless, inspiring wisdom on leadership from the sages of literature and outstanding leaders written over the centuries right up to the present day. Bob has selected over 70 poems, prose, … Read more

Boards and Trust

by Bob Vanourek Higher trust in organizations leads to higher retention, cooperation, innovation, and pride. Higher trust enhances the speed at which organizations work because the fear created in low trust organizations is minimized. Higher trust leads to better results for all stakeholders from customers to employees and shareholders. Therefore, higher trust needs to be … Read more

Helping People Soar

In 1981 I joined Monarch Marking Systems as their president. This subsidiary of Pitney Bowes was the leader in price-marking equipment used by retailers. But scannable bar codes had just come out, so price-marking equipment might become obsolete. I was stoked by this strategic challenge! Monarch had wisely reinvented itself as a bar code printer … 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

Why Do You Want to Lead?

I was flying from Cleveland to Chicago to meet my wife, June, and two young sons. They were flying from Los Angeles to meet me for a brief Christmas holiday. I had been “too busy” to fly back to help her cope with our toddler and the baby. (It is really so embarrassing to relate … Read more

Escaping the Stressors of Leadership

  Guest Post by Mike Figliuolo The pressure on leaders is increasing every day. Calls for “doing more with less” echo through the halls as ever-escalating expectations create a great deal of stress for leaders. The investment of a leader’s time, energy, and attention (what we call “leadership capital”) is a critical choice leaders make … Read more

A Triple Crown Winner at Last

That’s why it’s called “the most elusive championship in all of sports.” It’s taken 37 years since Affirmed won the coveted Triple Crown of thoroughbred horseracing in 1978 for another winner to break through. On June 6 American Pharoah (an inadvertent misspelling of “pharaoh”) became only the 12th horse since 1875 to win the Triple … Read more

The Problem with Tired Leaders

  Are you tired? Stressed? Busy? Just par for the course for today’s leader, right? Wrong. These days, it seems that “busy is the new black.” Busy is in. People boast about how busy they are. When answering a schedule request, they regale you with all the things in their calendar that prevent them from … Read more