Be Vulnerable: Turn Your Weaknesses into Something Good

Bob Vanourek with weaknesses quote

Most of us are adept at hiding our weaknesses. I know I am. I’m getting better though. I’ve learned that being vulnerable by admitting my weaknesses often turns the situation around to something good. People Already Know I discovered that many people already knew my weaknesses. It was obvious to them, even while I was … Read more

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.” Since I had done well in college and … 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

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

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 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

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 industry, designing and … Read more

Servant Leadership through Time

The concept of leaders as servants goes back into ancient history but was articulated most clearly in the 20th century by Robert Greenleaf in an essay, “The Servant as Leader,” published in 1970. In the next four years, two more essays explored ideas that an entire institution – and a society – could act as … Read more

Twelve Tips to Grow as a Leader

Leadership speakers Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek feature Nelson Mandela as exemplifying growth in leadership.

Leaders aren’t born. They grow. Yes, some people are born with characteristics that make leadership easier. Some people are more outgoing, or intellectually gifted, or quick thinking. Some are excellent communicators, or have natural self-belief. But opportunities to learn and grow dramatically outweigh all of those factors combined. Leadership is learned and developed through a … Read more

The Wonders of “Pay It Forward”

Leadership speaker and author Bob Vanourek uses this image of a smiling man offering a pen to a woman to illustrate the importance of valuing people.

“For it is in giving that we receive.” –St. Francis of Assisi There are three kinds of people: takers, “transactors,” and givers. Each of us needs to decide where our focus will be.   Takers Takers are focused on serving their own needs and pleasures. They may be courteous about it and pleasant to be … Read more

The Three Most Important Questions About Your Leadership

Stick figure sitting in question mark ponders 3 questions of leadership

Here are three critical questions to ask yourself before you undertake the responsibility of leading other people:   What is the difference between “the leader” and “leadership”? “The leader” is the historical leadership model that has led us astray so often. It focuses on the skills, attributes, and qualities of the “the leader.” It tells … Read more