What Leaders are Learning

Leaders Work Hard

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. As both the United States and Canada celebrate Labor Day this past Monday, we relax with family and celebrate the accomplishments of workers, a holiday, according to Wikipedia, established in 1894 to honor the labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country. For Leadership Spokane, it is a day to celebrate leaders. After all, leadership is hard work. I often see natural leaders on the athletic field who, with charisma and natural ability, marshal incredible success. While the athletic skill may be hard work, the leadership seemingly flows from their prowess. I am envious.

For most leadership situations in the workplace, it is plain hard work. Peter Drucker’s famous quote comes to mind: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Doing things right is hard enough but process and experience help make this task easier. Doing the right things can be vastly harder. The easiest path is not always the most ethical path or the correct path. Likewise, one of the most cardinal principles of leaders is vision or foresight. Knowing where to take your team is never easy as life’s complexities give many alternatives and some are better than others. But, that is the responsibility of leaders – to make the right call.

Fortunately, beyond the responsibility of leaders to do the hard work, there are substantial benefits to the effort. Listening to an excellent Greenleaf Center webinar last week, Joseph Patrnchak, trustee of the Center and author of the “Engaged Enterprise,” definitively lays out several benefits for good servant leadership: 26% higher revenue per employee, 18% more productivity, 37% less absenteeism, 49% fewer safety incidents and 12% higher customer ratings. Patrnchak determined these improvements from studies when he was a senior manager at the Cleveland Clinic, one of the foremost medical centers in the country. He pegged these improvements to the concept of servant leadership and employee engagement. Specifically, Patrnchak argues that servant leadership, the concept that a leader has the natural aspiration to serve first, leads to “heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job, organization, manager, or co-workers…that influences him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work.” He then points out that this enhanced connection provides the following improved outcomes: connection to the organization’s mission, a sense that my organization and its leaders care about me and my opinions count, improved opportunities for professional development and recognition for the work I do. In effect, servant leadership comes full circle — leaders serve their followers, followers feel engaged and deliver better outcomes for the servant leader!

Patrnchak finished the pre-Labor Day compelling discussion on the power of servant leadership reminding us that, “If you don’t care, they don’t care.” Leadership matters but for it to matter, leaders must care about their followers. When they do — when they are true servant leaders — Patrnchak’s studies argue that leaders gain moral authority, empower others and also welcome feedback. This allows the servant leader to seeks solutions, not blame, which further strengthens relationships with supervisors and colleagues and affords better recognition. All this creates another full circle. Gaining moral authority and the other benefits including recognition leads to better employee engagement which heightens productivity.

So all in all, this Labor Day, Leadership Spokane celebrated the hard work of our community workers. But, we also celebrate the hard work of servant leaders. Leadership is hard work, particularly when the “gray” areas of life intercede. Thanks to an excellent webinar by Greenleaf Center and Joseph Patrnchak, I was reminded that leadership’s hard work gives off the wall benefits.

This fall, servant leaders, let’s get back to serving others. The dividends are endless. Leaders do work hard!

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. ~ Theodore Roosevelt