Gifford Thomas, founder of Leadership First, offers a heartfelt, inspiring sermon on the virtues and profitability of servant leadership and leading with love.
Businesses must discard pyramid-shaped organizational structures and embrace love as the core of good management, asserts Gifford Thomas, the Trinidad-based founder of Leadership First.
Thomas writes passionately about important subjects that management thinkers rarely discuss. He debunks management concepts from ancient Greek thinkers, who believed dominant people made great leaders. Instead, he reports, history demonstrates that people perform best when their leaders inspire them, rather than command or coerce them.
Thomas is a member of the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council and a leading Quora writer about leadership development. His involvement with business thought leaders has honed his ideas and values, and led him to conclude that great leaders are made, not born.
Leaders who inspire their followers exhibit concern for them and adopt a servant leader attitude. Seth Mattison, co-founder of Luminate, concurs that leaders must accept that loving other people fuels good management practices.
We need a new generation of leaders who care deeply for the wellbeing of their team and who understand that people are the heart of their leadership.Gifford Thomas
Leaders who maintain distance and emotional detachment can’t succeed in today’s workplace. Contemporary outstanding leaders seek open, healthy communication with their colleagues and staff members.
When PepsiCo appointed Indra Nooyi as CEO, she visited her mother in India. Nooyi’s family and friends came to her mother’s house and congratulated her mother for how well she had raised her daughter. Nooyi realized she could offer the same thanks to the families of her senior executives at PepsiCo.
As a leader, you have an incredible opportunity to change someone’s life every single day.Gifford Thomas
Nooyi wrote to the parents and spouses of her colleagues expressing her gratitude. She suggests that leaders should talk to employees about their parents. Such a level of care nourishes your employees’ loyalty and shows that you value them.
Pyramid-shaped management structures worked when manufacturing dominated the economy. Employees did what employers wanted them to do because employers coerced them and viewed personnel as a cost.Today, as Thomas points out, even when a hierarchical approach goes against the long-term needs of their organization, some managers insist on protecting their position near the peak.
The Servant-Leader Perspective
Robert Greenleaf, who delineated the concept of servant leadership, believes it hinges on a passion for helping others. Aware leaders understand that their behavior affects their employees’ emotions and, therefore, their productivity. When leaders don’t follow their own advice about treating people well they undermine employee morale.
When you enter the realm of leadership, you are in the business of people. Inspiring and motivating people to get things done.Gifford Thomas
Some leaders express concern for their employees, but then serve only their own selfish interests. A truly inspiring leader rightfully earns others’ respect and trust. Leaders must understand that people will not follow them because of their titles alone and, Thomas warns, they must be aware that their reactions to unexpected events puts their temperament on display.
New or Problematic Leaders
Many companies promote people into management without assessing their managerial abilities. These companies often lack developmental programs that help leaders build managerial skills. The problem is that those leaders’ inexperience and lack of training show up in their work.
Troubled leaders may feel threatened by the capabilities of their subordinates or believe their companies should reward them for their prior achievements or qualifications. Ineffective leaders may intimidate their team members rather than inspire them.
Anyone can bark out orders. It doesn’t take strength to yell at people, write them up or blame them for mistakes.Gifford Thomas
Successful businesses train and develop leaders and don’t limit leadership opportunities to those at the top. Firms that spread knowledge and empowerment to all of their employees can make decisions more quickly, increase customer satisfaction and save money.
Businesses thrive when their employees challenge organizational conformity. Thomas cites Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, who recommends that leaders surround themselves with people whose talents exceed their own.
Surround yourself with people that push you to do better. No drama or negativity. Just higher goals and higher motivation. Good times and positive energy. No jealousy or hate. Simply bringing out the best in each other.Warren Buffett
Capable leaders realize they possess certain competencies, and they seek assistance in areas where they know they fall short.For example, billionaire Richard Branson’s struggles with dyslexia led him to recognize the importance of delegating. Ineffective leaders’ incompetence often stems from their belief they have to know everything and fill every role, a self-defeating idea which leads to exhaustion and anger.
You have to decide what kind of company you want to have. The Game Changers 500 organization highlights inspirational businesses that prioritize goals “for benefit as opposed to for-profit,” nurture distinctive corporate values and create community.
Inspirational leaders can capture people’s attention effortlessly, and influence the lives of many people.Gifford Thomas
The ancient philosophers, including Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, suggested that great leaders possess innate greatness. They believed dominant people make the best leaders.In contrast, today’s inspiring leaders galvanize their teams through their authenticity and character, not power alone. They offer a stirring mission, grant people autonomy, demonstrate exemplary behavior, nourish employees’ passion, stay modest, and share determination and conviction.
Great leaders construct the future; lesser leaders respond to circumstances. For instance, Steve Jobs discarded the notion that Apple should compete with Microsoft and focused instead on building an exceptional company. His vision helped Apple become the behemoth it is today.
A leader is someone whose actions have the most profound consequences on other people’s lives, for better or worse, sometimes forever and ever.Warren Bennis
Farsighted leaders recognize exceptional subordinates, commit to their decisions, believe in equity, value collaboration, and act with deliberation and restraint.
Gifford Thomas writes with a preacher’s sense of oratory and enveloping cadences. His pages feel like speeches at times, but speeches you want to hear – he can be spellbinding. And like all great preachers, he has a heartfelt message, which aligns with the credo of servant leadership. This position is hardly groundbreaking, but Thomas inspires readers with the strength of his sincerity and belief.
He doesn’t build logical arguments, even though they appear prominently. Instead, he starts with emotional reasons and lets his logic emerge from his heart. That makes his servant leadership primer unique and uniquely inspiring.
Gifford Thomas also wrote Communication For Change Management: Mastering Communication To Architect Change. He is featured in 10 Must Read Articles on Leadership. Other works on servant leadership include Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell and Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness by Robert K. Greenleaf.