This Obscure 1970s Management Style Was Way Ahead of Its Time
(This article is reprinted courtesy of Inc.com and the author Bruce Poon Tip). We have founded our company on the same ideals and when we came across this recent article published on October 26th, 2016, we simply thought we should share it. We hope it helps you or readers and clients.
These words from Robert K. Greenleaf describe how Millennials are demanding a different kind of workplace. Which is funny, because they were written nearly 50 years ago, when Greenleaf came up with a management concept he called Servant Leadership — an idea that might be more relevant today than ever before.
It may seem strange to look to the 1970s for ideas on how to manage and motivate people. When we think of that time, we think of big business and the beginning of the modern era on Wall Street, where the trendiest idea was following Sun Tzu’s gung-ho military manual The Art of War. Leadership back then meant making the tough decisions, beating the other guy at his own game, and generally being the alpha dog in the room.
Greenleaf’s idea couldn’t have been more different. The former AT&T executive turned management guru wrote in an essay that a servant leader “begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.”
He emphasizes that servant leaders have five important qualities:
- they are open to listening to others, and to their own intuition;
- they know when to withdraw and refresh themselves;
- they are able to persuade rather than just coerce;
- they accept their followers’ imperfections and have empathy for them;
- they can conceptualize a clear vision and follow it one step at a time.
So why, in 2016, am I attracted to servant leadership? It’s simple. The people I want to hire, promote, and have work around me are people whose goal in life is to serve–to put greater importance on making people around them better, as opposed to propelling themselves. It’s a critical trait in a social enterprise, and a force that is changing the world for the better. I call it leading with a servant’s heart.
When I founded my company G Adventures 26 years ago, yes, I was obsessed with seeing and fully experiencing the world, and I loved the challenge of building a new business with the limited funds I could scrape together. But as all-inclusive resorts and cruises became popular, I also saw the deepening divide between travelers and the people and places they visited. So I wanted to create a business model that would serve each: spreading wealth, opening minds, and building happiness and community for traveler and host alike.
In the years since, we’ve been able to bring nearly 40 underserved communities from 25 countries into the tourism economy, while earning consistent double-digit growth, and empowering our travelers to be the engines that help us drive positive impact. We call it “leading with service.” It’s a business model people want to help us pay forward.
Business moves in parallel to society. In the ’70s and ’80s, most companies didn’t think doing good was necessarily their responsibility. They left that stuff to nonprofits and religious organizations, which were among the first to embrace Greenleaf’s ideas.
But today, business is trying to catch up by pushing the boundaries of social enterprise. Leadership is changing along with it. The old Braveheart mentality of business leaders taking a group into battle is being replaced by leaders who are about bringing everyone together around a purpose. The line between pure profit-seeking and social enterprise is being blurred.
In the future, it’s my strong belief that companies will be the ones to change the world. When you look at what’s happening with business giants like Warren Buffett, Mike Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Marc Benioff, Ted Turner, and others putting their personal fortunes toward solving big problems, you can see how the wind is blowing. These are businesspeople who built huge, for-profit companies, in some cases very aggressively, and yet they see the change that is taking place and are using their influence to serve the greater good.
What does it mean? I think Robert Greenleaf put it best:
“A new moral principle is emerging … Those who choose to follow this principle will not casually accept the authority of existing institutions. Rather, they will freely respond only to individuals who are chosen as leaders because they are proven and trusted as servants. To the extent that this principle prevails in the future, the only truly viable institutions will be those that are predominantly servant-led.”
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