I became enamored of the concept Servant Leadership in the 1980s. Developed by Robert Greenleaf, it’s defined thus: a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. Greenleaf says, “The servant–leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve.”
Such an important concept, yet the skills to practice it elude us. I’d like to help change that.
THE BIAS PROBLEM
As a Buddhist, I deeply believe that serving one another is a necessary aspect of our lives. But the communication skill sets inherent in our culture don’t make it easy for influencers to truly serve:
With our current skill sets, we end up pushing our own agendas (in the name of the Other, of course), according to our subjective needs, beliefs, and goals (using our ‘professionalism’ and ‘intuition’ to tell ourselves we’re ‘right’) and restrict the full set of possibilities – even potentially causing a rift in the relationship. We assume that because we have the moral high ground, that because our intention is honorable (or necessary, or dictated by above, or rational, etc.) the only missing piece is ‘how best’ to get Others to do what we think they should do. I once ran a Buying Facilitation® training for The Covey Leadership Center. They staunchly believed that because they were teaching The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, they were above manipulation and ‘healers’ who had the right to push and manipulate. And they absolutely believed that because they were ‘right’ they got to use any strategies they need to convince.
We forget that by assuming we have Another’s answers, and taking on the job of making sure the Other does what’s ‘right’, we end up taking their power away, assuredly biasing the direction of their growth journey, and not serving them at all. Not to mention it’s quite impossible to understand Another’s unconscious, that whatever they are doing has been part of their normal operating system and used habitually during the course of their lives.
Regardless of the efficacy of what we offer, our approach threatens the Other’s status quo. Our biased questions, the Other’s inability to hear us outside of their habituated listening filters (and our inability to hear them accurately), and the existing rules and Beliefs that have put the current (problematic) behaviors in place, will resist us. We are causing the resistance we receive and blaming them for their resistance – prospects who seem ‘stupid’, and patients who ‘don’t care’ about their health, students who ‘don’t want’ to learn, and clients who ‘won’t listen’ to us.
WHY WE CAN’T CHANGE OTHERS EVEN WITH GOOD MOTIVES
We know someone needs to stop smoking, or eat differently. We are certain the environment is in trouble. But we don’t seem to have the ability to get someone to change. We provide all the scientific evidence, relate a story of someone who has died, or offer different approaches to stop. And yet they persist. We know that a company or group really, really needs our solution, and yet they persist with failing results rather than buy.
What is going on? Why would anyone prefer to maintain failure rather than change? Seems that way, but it’s not entirely accurate. Everyone would prefer Excellence, but using conventional practices, change runs the risk of permanent disruption in our comfortable habits and status quo; outside-in push/behavior change approaches do not effectively manage the unconscious that would need to buy-in, and accomodate for, any change. Let’s start with our attempts to have Another change a behavior. The reasons we fail mount up:
So our entire approach leads to a high degree of bias, resistance, and failure as we promote the changes we think should occur in a way that challenges Another’s status quo. We don’t realize that whatever ‘new’ comes into an existing system must fit with the status quo or it gets rejected rather than be disrupted. We don’t realize we’re actually causing the resistance we receive.
And resist they do – not because our data or goals aren’t worthy or necessary, and not because they don’t want to change per se, but because our good will, shared information, and ‘push’ tactics conflict with the Other’s unconscious system that protects itself from unknowable disruption. Indeed, any modifications to the status quo would have to be performed in a way would leave the system congruent. The system would rather be fine, as it is, than not exist. And the time it takes for the system to accept and make room for the ‘new’ is the length of time it takes for adoption. With the best will in the world we challenge their Systems Congruence.
And unfortunately, as doctors and sellers, trainers and consultants, parents and coaches – as influencers – we don’t have the full set of skills to do more than attempt to cause change, rather than elicit it. We don’t naturally possess the skills of Servant Leadership.
GIVE UP INDIVIDUAL NEEDS
True Servant Leadership enables others to elicit their own congruent change. Since our current skill sets won’t get us there, we need new skills that facilitate Others, and a switch in perspective to enabling Others to discover their own answers. We must change the trajectory of our efforts. There is a route to facilitating Another’s change that is congruent, highly successful, and offers real leadership with no resistance.
I’ve spent my life coding the unconscious route through to choice and change. Although I’ve often written about, and trained it, in the sales industry (Buying Facilitation®), it’s actually a generic Change Facilitation model that offers the tools to enable Others to discover and own their own Excellence, an Excellence that complies with the rules and history of their own Beliefs, an Excellence that can be eagerly, joyously adopted because it operates from within their status quo.
Servant Leadership assumes:
Decades ago, I mapped the sequential steps of systemic choice, change, and decision making enabling people to discover their own best choices that match the rules and values of their internal system. These steps traverse a pathway from the unconscious, where their habituated behaviors and status quo originates through to buy-in and Systems Congruence so change is comfortably adopted, without disruption.
I have taught these skill sets to influencers in business, coaching, leadership, and healthcare to assist in facilitating permanent, congruent change: to help buyers buy, to help coaches, leaders, and doctors elicit congruent, permanent change, to help learners learn permanently – eliciting the core of the unconscious HOW to facilitate Another’s excellence their own way – to find their own answers.
So what would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to begin interactions as a Servant Leader rather than a coach, parent, seller, leader? How can you know, given the skill sets and foundations are so different, that it’s worth taking the time to add new skill sets to the ones you already use? Imagine having the skills that truly enable Others to find their own Excellence. Imagine being a true Servant Leader.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, thought leader, and subject matter expert, as well as the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Sharon Drew speaks, trains, coaches, and consults in sales, healthcare, coaching, and leadership. She is the originator of Buying Facilitation®, a Change Facilitation model that offers influencers the tools to facilitate congruent change in Others via Servant Leadership. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org