Mon • Mar 24th, 2014 • by Tom Nees • Comments 7
Lest the negative image of CEO’s be overstated – there are good servant CEO’s among us – some of them my close associates and friends. One the best is Bob Sloan who commented to the blog last week and responded further to my question about how to tell a servant leader from a non-servant leader.
Bob recently retired after 27 years of distinguished service as CEO of Washington’s Sibley Hospital. He has gone on to serve as the President and CEO of the Jane Bancroft Robinson Foundation to support projects that break the cycle of poverty in Washington, DC. In 2013, he received the “O” award, the highest honor from his alma mater, Olivet Nazarene University.
He described the effect of non-servant bosses in his early life.
“I worked for two CEO’s in my career that had the characteristics that you describe in some of your writings. Both CEO’s suffered from a lack of confidence and intimidated those who served with them. They were harsh, critical, demanding and made people feel insecure which created turnover in the organization.
Their leadership certainly had a negative impact on the organization.”
And then he reflected on the servant leaders who set an example for his own career.
“I also served with three outstanding leaders who were smart, hard working, committed, humble and loyal to their subordinates. As a consequence those who served with them worked extra hard just so they would not disappoint or let their leader down. The morale in the organization was very high in each of the organizations with these leaders.
I was able to pattern my leadership after the ones that I admired and I was able to avoid bad habits because of what I learned under domineering leaders. I was very aware of the characteristics of both styles of leadership.”
In his writings on servant leadership, Robert Greenleaf wrote that servant leaders are known not so much by what they do as the effect they have on their followers.
“The best test,” of servant leadership, he wrote, “and difficult to administer, is this:
Do those served grow as persons: Do they, while being served become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?
And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived.”
Bob Sloan’s personal experience confirms Greenleaf’s observations. Servant and non-servant leaders come in many different forms and with a variety of styles. But one thing is constant – the effect they have on others.
The followers of non-servant leaders flounder while the followers of servant leaders flourish.