It seems clear that the common good isn’t always the same as our personal preference. Sometimes leading for the common good means putting others’ interests ahead of our own.
Robert Greenleaf called this behavior servant leadership. It starts with taking care to make sure other people’s high priority needs are being met. Beyond that, Greenleaf said we should ask “Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”According to the Greenleaf Center, this doesn’t only apply to individuals – organizations can also demonstrate servant leadership.
So does that mean that I should greet my employees with coffee every morning and be ready to set aside my own tasks to help out when things get busy? According to consultant Skip Pritchard, that’s not servant leadership. He proposed nine qualities that define a servant leader:
- Valuing diverse opinions
- Promoting a culture of trust
- Developing leadership in others
- Helping people with life issues, not just work issues
- Encouraging others
- Using persuasion more than command
- Thinking about “you,” not “me”
- Thinking long term
- Showing humility
Have you had the chance to work for an individual or organization that demonstrated these traits? How did it feel? For me, those have been the times when I was able to bring my best to the workplace. How can we all work together to make Minnesota State a place where servant leadership is the norm?
Dee Anne Bonebright
Last week we talked about ways to show your support for an organizational decision, beyond just talking about it. But what happens if it soon becomes apparent that it was the wrong decision?
A Google search of “incorrect decisions”, which is how I began brainstorming for this post, brings up multiple links: “America’s Biggest Foreign Policy Fiascos”, “Stupidest Business Decisions Ever Made”, and the more generic “10 of the Worst Decisions Ever Made”. Poor decisions are everywhere, but it’s how they’re handled that often gets noticed the most.
Leaders who successfully weather these storms have some things in common:
Take responsibility: Nobody likes to hear excuses. Own up to the mistake, then describe how it will be fixed.
Don’t play the blame game: Throwing your employees under the bus by publicly blaming them, either indirectly or directly, isn’t generally well received.
Learn from it: In retrospect, what could have been done to avoid this, and how can you keep it from happening again?
Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone handles them the same. Taking the high road when things go wrong is almost always the correct route.
Since I work in the Wells Fargo Place building, I’ve been interested in their recent ethical problems. A business professor from Wharton recently published an article about the issue. He looked at similar violations in the finance industry, as well as the Volkswagen scandal, and concluded that actions by leadership can normalize what would otherwise be seen as dishonest.
For example, it appears that over 5,300 employees at Wells Fargo were involved in creating unauthorized accounts and charging unauthorized fees against them. Equally troubling, the HR unit had a plan for firing employees who reported the unethical behavior. And because of the widespread misbehavior, authorities are now having a hard time holding people accountable.
We in higher education are not responsible for people’s finances, but as leaders we make decisions that impact hiring, work roles, and many aspects of the campus climate. We can normalize decisions that are ethical, civil, and respectful to everyone. Over the past year I’ve been learning a lot about unconscious bias in hiring and employment, and how some things we consider “normal” are putting some people at a disadvantage without our realizing it. I need to examine my leadership decisions to be sure they support the climate we want to create.
What kind of decisions do you make in your leadership role? How can you be sure they are promoting ethical behavior in others?
Dee Anne Bonebright
Ok, I admit it. This post is a day late. I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday night watching the presidential electoral college vote results and the commentators trying to explain how all the predictions were wrong. Then on Wednesday, more analysis and exploration of what happened. I promise, this will not be a political post, but the election of president-elect Trump highlights how hard it is to predict the future! And we have a long history of getting predictions wrong.
So, how do leaders build organizational capacity to meet future challenges when it is so hard to see what will happen in the future?
Gary Hamel encourages leaders in his book What Matters Now (2012) – to go back to the basics and focus on values to prepare for an uncertain future. He lists the following as “pivotal, overarching concerns” for leaders:
- Values – act as a steward and take actions that demonstrate concern for your people and organization.
- Innovation – provide opportunities for all your people to contribute their ideas to meet your customers’ needs.
- Adaptability – “future-proof” your company by relentlessly pushing for internal change to match external changes. Hamel stresses the need to “seek out the most discomforting facts you can find and share them with everyone in your organization.”
- Passion – clearly demonstrate that your people are affecting the outside world with their work. Highlight the importance of each and every person’s day-to-day work.
- Ideology – examine, discuss and challenge the status quo. Make it safe for people to express their opinions and concerns.
We may mess up predicting the future but Hamel implores leaders to speak up for “the good, the just and the beautiful” to better prepare for the uncertainty ahead.
The following link provides a detailed summary of What Matters Now.
Posted in build organizational talent, building teams, change and transition, Developing Capacity, Engagement, integrity, Leadership, leading authentically, stewardship, stewardship
Tagged Change, engagement, innovation, integrity, Leadership, organizational culture, stewardship, values
One leadership competency that is always important is the ability to respond in the moment. I am going to take a quick detour from stewardship and share a powerful set of stories and images from the past week. This photo by @NickLenz captures what it means to be a leader in higher education. Students, faculty, staff, administrators and interim president Ashish Vaiyda all joined together for a rally this week in response to the stabbing incident in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
I have been proud to read the stories of how one of our schools has demonstrated true compassion in response to a tragedy and unwavering support of students and community members who are threatened because of their ethnic background. They all stepped up in a public arena and led a rally for unity. Afterwards they also hosted small group discussions.
I will let their words and pictures speak for themselves.
#StCloudUnited twitter feed
MPR News story
Bring Me the News story
St. Cloud Times story
Stillwater Patch story
KNSI radio story
Have a peaceful weekend.
Posted in Accountability, common good, equity, higher education, integrity, Leadership, leading authentically, racial tension
Tagged accountability, cultural competency, diversity, equity, executive presence, higher education, integrity, Leadership, organizational culture, Tragedy at Work, values
“Houston, we have a problem….” is how Jane Wellman, higher education finance expert, describes the reality most public higher education institutions are facing today in an Inside Higher Education report. Minnesota State Chancellor Steven Rosenstone, at his final board of trustee retreat, reinforced our need to take action to respond to the “tectonic” changes our system is facing if we are to be stewards of the resources we receive from the public and our students and their families.
Stewardship, or long-term sustainability, in higher education requires more than carefully watching how we spend our money. Former interim president of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Avelino Mills-Novoa, implores us to change from training our students how to fit into our colleges and universities to actually changing our colleges and universities so they fit our students!
This type of stewardship demands that we challenge ourselves and our teams to tackle issues that we have not been willing to address in the past. At a previous organization where I worked at we used the term “sacred cows” to open up dialogue with all employees. What existing practices, policies, procedures, work habits, leadership styles, infrastructure, labor agreements, ideas, or traditions need to be examined and potentially given up or radically changed to allow us to serve our students and communities as they deserve to be served?
A cross-functional workgroup representing stakeholders from our campuses and the system recently identified five potential recommendations to ensure our financial sustainability. It included students, union representatives, campus leaders, and outside experts. As you read through the report you will see that a number of sacred cows are identified. As leaders in higher education, setting the stage for your teams to examine and discuss these recommendations is an example of stewardship.
- Act as an enterprise
- Consolidate the delivery of core functions
- Build partnerships that prepare students for a successful college or university experience
- Adopt more creative and flexible labor practices
- Re-calibrate physical plant and space capacity
What are your reactions to the report? Are there other sacred cows for us to challenge and change?
Posted in common good, Developing Capacity, higher education, integrity, Leadership, stakeholders, stewardship, stewardship
Tagged accountability, Charting the Future, Leadership, organizational culture, stakeholders, stewardship, transformational change
“I find that when you open the door toward openness and transparency, a lot of people will follow you through.” – Kirsten Gillibrand
Transparency is an essential ingredient to building trust in teams and in entire organizations. According to leadership expert, Stephen M.R. Covey, “transparency is based on the principles of honesty, openness, integrity, and authenticity.” When leaders are transparent and communicate openly, as Kirsten Gillibrand states, people trust them and follow them more readily. When leaders build cultures that have transparent processes and communication, it gives their employees and customers greater confidence in the organization, because they know that nothing is being hidden. Multiple studies demonstrate that greater transparency translates into stronger, more productive organizations.
I’ve been inspired recently by the transparency demonstrated within my own human resources (HR) community in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. We are in the process of moving some transactional processes to a shared-service model. On the surface, it may sound simple. Believe me, it’s not! The process represents a daunting large-scale change effort to move transactions from 31 individual HR offices across our system to four regional service centers.
The team leading this effort has created an environment of transparency through multiple communications and opportunities for dialogue and participation among human resources professionals and other stakeholders. While the change effort can be scary for some whose offices and jobs will be affected, the transparency demonstrated in the process has created great trust among my HR colleagues. Most believe that the leadership team will make decisions that are thoughtful, humane, and in the best interest of both the colleges and universities and its employees.
As you think about creating transparency, you might want to consider the following questions:
- What information should I be sharing with my team and other stakeholders on a regular basis? Am I withholding information? If so, why?
- Ask your team: how can we make our processes or business practices more transparent to our stakeholders? Then look for ways to increase transparency!
What are some strategies you employ to create transparency?