The Simple Method to Act Like a Servant Leader

Business leadership and teamwork concept

Imagine for a moment you’re an architect of a new commercial building. It is in a busy, up-and-coming part of town, and there are only two rules for the project: The entrance has to be able to keep horses out, and no one who enters or exits will have to open the door for someone else. What kind of entryway would you design?

Normal hinge doors will not work. Neither will a new-age automatic slinging one. Instead, your only real option would be a revolving door. As legend has it, the revolving door was created by Theophilus Van Kannel in 1888 in response to these exact specifications. What is wonderful about this invention is that the revolving door does not care who pushes it. It does not automatically refuse to move because of someone’s gender, race, age, or skill level. It does not have an expiration date, but rather keeps turning, day in and day out, to help people get from where they are to where they are trying to go. 

I use this visual of a revolving door because the best leaders behave like one. They invite people in only to exit them on the other side, a better version of the person who walked in.  

Great leaders invite people on a journey and ensure they exit a better version than they started.  

Lean Into Purpose Over Motivation

Leaders that act as a revolving door aren’t afraid to lose a talented person to a better opportunity because preparing people to meet their potential is a part of their purpose. The best leaders are purpose driven and committed to a deeper cause. A great example comes from the sport of marathon running, which I shared in a recent keynote (need a speaker for an upcoming leadership event?)

Whether you have ever had a leader who is purpose-driven and acts as a revolving door for others or not, being someone who invites and improves others isn’t only meant for certain people. What’s required is someone to choose to take the initiative and responsibility to lead. In my work coaching and developing leaders over the last decade, I have found that most people don’t make this choice because they don’t know what it means to lead.  

In Building the Best, I defined leadership this way. Someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others. It doesn’t take a title to lead like this. The reality is you can lead regardless of your title or position. 

You can choose to lead regardless of your title or position.

You can lead at work, in your family, or in the community. I hope you aspire to let people in, then come out on the other side better than they were before.  

The PTS Method

There is a simple yet highly effective method to help remind you to lead this way. The reason it is simple is that simple is remembered, and complex is forgotten. 

Simple is remembered, complex is forgotten. 

This simple strategy is the “PTS Method” and something I have put into practice in my own life, both at work and home. It’s a way to flip your mindset away from “about you” to “elevating others.” Here is how it works.  

When you change environments, say to yourself, “prepare to serve” and then put it into action. An example of changing settings would be moving from one meeting to the next. Before walking in the door or logging into your next Zoom meeting, you would say, “prepare to serve.” Without thinking much after that or trying to do anything drastically different, you will have other people’s interests top of mind.  

Try it tonight at home. Before walking through the door, say to yourself, “prepare to serve.” You will be amazed at how willing you are to help out your spouse or your kids simply because you have changed your thinking. This is essential because our mind is the single most powerful asset we have.

All servant leaders begin with a shift in thinking.

When you put the “PTS” method into practice every day, you’ll quickly become a servant leader, which makes others want to emulate your actions.  

Closing

I would be lying to you if I told you I was always able to remember the “PTS” Method. Leading other people is hard, and I make mistakes each and every day. I disappoint my team and I think about myself too much at times. I fail to serve, empower, and inspire others, and you will, too. This journey will never be a perfect one. There is no ultimate destination but a journey of becoming the very best leader you can be.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Lead a High Performing Team

Innovation and creative idea concept

Traditionally, people were promoted into leadership positions because they were viewed as a top individual contributor, a type-A extrovert, and/or a supremely confident professional. This results from what’s called a “promote to retain” strategy implemented by many organizations. 

While retaining top talent is vitally important, it’s also critical for organizations to promote people into positions of leadership that can drive performance and make a positive impact on the people they get the opportunity to lead.

There is one predictor of leaders like this regardless if they were a top individual contributor or not, and it’s not where organizations have previously focused. Leaders who have a servant’s heart sustain positive business results and achieve high employee engagement scores.  

After studying so many leaders with a servant’s heart in all different industries, roles, and backgrounds, it turns out they are doing many things right to have a high performing team. It’s what I refer to as “The Great 8 to Lead Your Best.” These are a list of things which by themselves are important, but they tend to compound and build upon each other. Here they are with a brief description of each to help you leverage them with your team as well.

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Leadership Methodology

Over the last 30 years, methodologies have skyrocketed in popularity because they provide a backbone and structure to do any difficult job. From sales to research to project management and now leadership.  

Many of the best modern leaders we have studied either knowingly or unknowingly use a servant leadership methodology and use high levels of love and discipline in the way they lead. Robert Greenleaf said it well, “Servant leadership always empathizes, always accepts the person, but sometimes refuses to accept some of the person’s effort or performance as good enough.”

Relationships

The key to leadership is relationships because, without strong relationships, you can’t lead. High performing teams have bonds of mutual trust and respect. Where most leaders struggle is in understanding their responsibility to earn those two things. Long gone are the days of a title commanding respect. In today’s workplaces, a title should only be a reminder of your responsibility to your people.

While this seems obvious, many leaders skip relationship building and jump right into accountability to drive performance. This is a massive mistake because 

Rules without relationships lead to rebellion. 

Instead of assuming the relationships with your team members are strong, make time with each team member to ask this powerful question: “How are you and your family coping during the pandemic?”

Communication

Effective communication is at the heart of effective leadership. James Humes famously said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” Leaders of high-performing teams not only leverage the proper amount of communication but also are clear, concise, and conclusive. 

Effective leaders are great communicators.

The best modern leaders are constantly looking to improve how they communicate by evaluating their verbal, written, and body language.  

Shared Purpose

People in organizations don’t get burned out because of their work; they get burned out because they forget WHY they do the work they do. Because of this, leaders of high-performing teams are constantly reminding their teams of the deeper purpose behind the work they do.  

One of the biggest mistakes managers make is believing it’s not their job to connect their team to a deeper purpose. Don’t fall into poor thinking. Embrace the responsibility that you are the connector of cause.  

Standards

For teams to keep getting better, leaders must raise the bar of what’s expected. The reason is that team members’ behaviors and habits are always going to default to the bar set. The best modern leaders embrace this by relying on standards. 

A standard is defined as “what good looks like.” If you want to leverage standards, don’t define what good looks like, but to go beyond that and define what great looks like.

Be crystal clear, concise, and focused. Limit yourself to as few standards as possible so they can be remembered and applied.

Execution

The teams that execute their strategy and plans to near perfection will always achieve more than teams who do not. George Patton famously said, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” As right as Patton is, it’s the leaders on a team who are responsible for removing barriers and putting people in the right positions to execute to the best of their abilities.  

Accountability 

Accountability is one of these words that has been hijacked. I define it in Building the Best as; the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them and disclose the results in a transparent manner. 

It is the obligation of leaders to account for their actions and the actions of their people.  

Leaders are obligated to care for all their people equally and to serve their hearts, not their talents. 

 If you want to model how the best modern leaders leverage accountability, get comfortable with having difficult dialogues, which I wrote about here.

Coaching

One way a leader separates themselves from being a manager in today’s modern business environment is by coaching their people. A coach, by definition, is one who trains and instructs. The late great John Whitmore took the formal definition even further, saying:

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential and helping them learn rather than teaching them.”

Leaders who coach have never been more critical than they are today. A strong, dedicated leader plays an integral role in elevating people to new heights, exactly how John Whitmore envisioned it.  

Closing

Every leader began somewhere. Regardless of whether you were promoted to a leadership position because of a “promote and retain strategy” or for some other reason, now is the time to embrace responsibility and develop servant’s heart. Once these are in place, work hard to understand, master, and apply “The Great 8 to Lead Your Best” on an ongoing basis.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

If You Don’t Like to Elevate Others, Don’t Try to Lead

Innovation and creative idea concept

Picture this: A person excels as an individual contributor or shows great potential. To reward and retain them they are given the promotion. The new position comes with a pay increase and allows them to make more decisions and influence strategy. It’s a great moment of validation for the employee.  

This scenario happens in organizations every day. But there’s a huge problem. This practice of rewarding performance with a position of leadership isn’t always the best strategy. 

Here’s why: I was promoted to be a manager in my previous company after I pushed for the promotion. I immediately jumped into the job and worked long hours to prove myself worthy. While my team did a few things well, the performance didn’t improve and no one was growing, developing, or finding joy in their work.  

Instead of looking at myself, I blamed the team. It wasn’t until I let one of our key team members go that I confronted the serious reality, the problem was not my team, the problem was me. Many years later I now know this critical leadership principle.

Leadership isn’t about the title; It’s about how you lead.

Minnesota Head football coach PJ Fleck said it well on Jon Gordon’s podcast: “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Your leadership title only matters the first day, after that, it’s how you do it.”

I didn’t find one successful leader in my research for Building the Best who didn’t have the heart to serve. The word serve comes from the Latin word servant, in modern context it means, “to devote (part of) one’s life or efforts to others.”

Why serving others is so essential right now

Serving others is always crucial for leaders, but it’s especially important during challenging times and Covid-19 is the epitome of challenging times. People are concerned about their health, finances, and their future more than any time in recent history.  

Since each person is affected by it differently, the ways in which leaders serve should also be different based on the individual. 

Serving a team takes two different forms: 

Direct Service. Serving team members directly is done through actions that someone else immediately experiences. This includes, but is not limited to: helping finish a project, sharing feedback to help a person improve, and giving resources (money or network introductions).  

Indirect Service. Serving team members indirectly is mainly done through advocating for them when they aren’t present. This can include taking a pay cut so a team members’ job isn’t eliminated or recommending them for a promotion. 

Both direct and indirect service are powerful ways a leader can exhibit their willingness and ability to put someone else’s interests ahead of their own.  

The Sacrifice Matters

At the center of serving others is this word that tends to make people uncomfortable: sacrifice. In the context of leadership, sacrifice means to give up (something important or valued) for the sake of other considerations.  

It turns out many leaders are making sacrifices in various ways in the current market to serve their people. Many leaders have cut their salaries to $0 in an effort to help with financial stability or to save jobs. NFL Commissioner Roger Godell, Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen, Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, Fiserv’s CEO Jeffrey Yubaki, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, Texas Roadhouse’s CEO Kent Taylor, and Disneys’s Bob Iger have all taken cuts. 

While these sacrifices from CEOs are most like coming from their monetary abundance, they remain an important act to show their hard-working team members that they care about more themselves.  

A simple way to serve your team

If you have gotten this far in the article you either believe in servant leadership at your core or you want to do a better job of it. There is a simple yet highly effective method to help remind you to lead this way. It’s what I call the PTS Method. It’s a method to flip your mindset away from “you” to elevating others. Here is how it works.

When you change your environment, you say to yourself, “Prepare to serve,” and then you put it into action. An example would be when you are getting off one Zoom call today and prior to getting on the next one, you would say to yourself, “Prepare to serve.” Without trying to do anything drastically different, you will have your people’s interest top of mind instead of your own.

When you put the PTS Method into practice every day, you’ll quickly find yourself becoming a leader your people want to emulate and follow. If you have difficulty remembering, schedule your morning phone alarm with a “PTS” notification or put a sticky not on your desk. The important thing is to find whatworks for you and reminds you to “prepare to serve” every time you change your environment.

Closing

I would be lying to you if I told you I was always able to remember to put the PTS Method into practice. Leading other people is hard, and I make mistakes every day. I disappoint my team and I think about myself too much at times. I fail to serve, empower, and inspire others, and you will, too. But that’s ok because no leadership journey is ever perfect.  

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The Uncomplicated Habit That Makes You a Leader

Business leadership concept

Traditional thinking would have you believe you need a title to be considered a leader. Conventional thinking is wrong. A title doesn’t make a leader; your actions do.  

In my book, Building the Best, I define a leader as:

“someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.”

People who live out this definition don’t wait for a title — and acting this way isn’t reserved for the select few. Being a leader is for you, because when your actions inspire, empower, and serve others, not only will the performance of the people around you go up, your own performance will too.  

Research done by the Global Leadership Forecast over the last eight years has seen the continued slippage in leadership as a bench strength. In 2018, only 14 percent of companies had a strong bench, the lowest number the study has ever seen. Not only are these scary numbers, but it makes it even more critical for you to take personal responsibility for the development of your leadership skills. 

There’s a substantial difference between the title of “manager” and the actions of a leader; one is vastly more important than the other in today’s business environment. Therein is why much of the primary roles of a manager can be automated and replaced by technology. On the other hand, there has never been a more important time in our history to be a leader. 

The business environment we work in is more competitive and has more challenges than ever before.  One leader and a group of managers in an organization is yesterday’s way of thinking. What’s required today is an army of leaders at every level of an organization. One’s that are driven by rejecting the notion that their job is all about themselves and instead focus on elevating others.

The 3 Second Habit to Help You Make the Transition

If you are going to make the transition from manager to leader it will require a lot of hard work and effort. It isn’t going to happen overnight because leadership is a journey and not a destination. But like all important transitions, it starts with choices and habits.  

My friend, Amber Selking, defined a habit on the Follow My Lead Podcast as “something you do so often it becomes the very essence of your being.” There is a simple 3-second habit you can implement to move towards a leader mentality, it’s what I refer to in Building the Best as the “PTS Method.” 

PTS stands for “Prepare to Serve.” The method is simple, anytime you change your environment, you say to yourself, “prepare to serve.”  

When you walk in the house each night before you open the door say, “prepare to serve.”

When you walk into the office each day before you open the door say, “prepare to serve.”

When you get ready to walk into a team meeting, say to yourself, “prepare to serve.”

The simple habit of transforming your mind to thinking about others and serving them will be reflected in your actions. While there are many skills and competencies to develop in order to help your transition from manager to leader, this is the simplest and most effective one I know.  

What do you do to help you keep the mindset of a leader instead of a manager?

Elevate the Way You LeadBuilding the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill. It was named the #1 Best New Management Books to Read by Book Authority. Learn the stories, principles, and tools to help elevate the way you lead.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

This Single Phrase Puts Everything Into Perspective

Quite often we are worried about ourselves. What will we do? How does this impact me? How is this conversation going to get them to like/respect/follow me? All the while, we’re not thinking about the true meaning of leadership: to inspire, empower and serve in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.

We are all guilty. But there’s a method you can put into place to ensure you always have “serve” front and center in any situation. It’s called the PTS Method and it stands for Prepare to Serve.

Here’s how you use it. Every time you change environments, say to yourself, “prepare to serve”. You enter a meeting with your team: prepare to serve
You are logging into a conference call with a client: prepare to serve
You are opening the door to your house in the evening: prepare to serve.

This is not just for those leading teams at work. This is for everyone. Making this a habit will absolutely change your life and the lives of those around you.

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A Simple Idea to Make Your Hierarchical Organization Work Much Better

The vast majority of companies are set up as hierarchical organizations.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with this structure, we have started to see a shift towards a more ‘network’ oriented approach.

While the approaches are vastly different before your organization makes a massive shift, there is something that could make your hierarchical organization work better and more effectively.

Interested in learning more about how we help organizations do this by clicking here.

About the Author John Eades is one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace. He is the CEO of LearnLoft, host of the Follow My Lead Podcast and author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader. He has set aside 20 speaking opportunities in 2018 and there are only a few spots remaining, learn more here.

You can follow him on LinkedIn and Instagram.