“Why are you leading? Is it to serve, or be served?” When bestselling business author Ken Blanchard asks this question during seminars, people always confirm that good leadership means serving others. But what keeps people from putting good ideas into use?
“I think leaders try to take on too many things at the same time,” says Blanchard. “Keeping your commitment to your commitment is the toughest thing. A lot of people say, ‘That’s a great idea. I'm going to do that,’ but then they move on to other things.”
“We wrote this book because we know a lot of people aren’t applying common sense leadership principles in the workplace,” says Conley.
The new book, being released by Berrett-Koehler Publishers on February 1, shares simple, bite-sized pieces of advice for acquiring a trusted servant leader’s mindset and skillset. The authors hope aspiring leaders will use the book as a helpful guide to establishing the habits of an others-focused leader.
The 52 simple truths in the book are divided into two parts: Servant Leadership, Ken’s forte; and Building Trust, Randy’s specialty. Each section contains practical wisdom on topics such as the importance of setting clear goals, praising, and redirecting; how to create a motivating environment; the role of trust in leadership; the value of empowerment; characteristics of servant leaders and of trusted leaders; how to rebuild broken trust; and the power of forgiveness.
“This is a very user-friendly book,” says Conley. “You can use it in several ways—read the simple truths in order, pick one truth to read and apply each week of the year, or jump to a subtopic that interests you most.
“It’s no accident that the book’s format makes it easy for people to take on one concept a week for 52 weeks,” adds Blanchard. “This way, it’s not overwhelming. The reader is able to learn how to be a better servant leader and build trust in a simple, approachable way.”
Blanchard and Conley share a couple of their favourite examples from the book. Blanchard begins with a simple truth from the Servant Leadership section about the importance of leaders being appreciative and receptive to feedback—a hallmark of servant leaders.
“Have you ever given feedback to someone up the hierarchy who killed the messenger? Maybe you made an honest comment like, ‘Boss, I think our Thursday afternoon meetings are a waste of time.’ Your boss shouts, “What do you mean ‘a waste of time’? Are you kidding? Those meetings are important!’
“Giving feedback to the boss doesn’t come naturally to most people. They may fear being the messenger bearing bad news, so they hesitate to be candid. For this simple truth, we remind leaders to see feedback as a gift. We teach them to limit themselves to three simple but powerful phrases anytime they are receiving feedback. The first thing to say is ‘Thank you.’ Then follow up with ‘This is so helpful.’ Finally, ‘Is there anything else you think I should know?’
“Servant leaders love feedback. The only reason they’re leading is to serve—and if someone has suggestions on how they can serve better, they want to hear them. They don’t allow their ego to get in the way.”
Conley shares a simple truth from the Trust section.
“Our values drive our decisions. Servant leaders build trust because they are clear on the values that motivate their actions and guide their journey. For this simple truth, we share a five-step exercise to help leaders identify the personal values they hold most dear.
Write a long list of qualities that have meaning to you (examples: fairness, wisdom, generosity, courage, creativity, honesty, trustworthiness).
Narrow down the values on that list to the ten that are most important to you.
When you’re finished, choose your top three to five from that list.
Rank those top three to five values in order.
Finish the following sentence for each value: ‘I am living according to this value whenever I . . .’ In other words, define each value for yourself.
“It takes some soul searching and quiet, thoughtful time. But when you are finished, you will understand yourself, your motivations, and your intentions better than you did before. This clarity will lead to self-trust and will help you build trusting relationships with people around you.”
Simple Truths of Leadership is packed with a year’s worth of content—and even includes a discussion guide designed for both individual study and group conversations.
“The discussion guide contains prompts from each of the servant leadership and trust subtopics addressed by the book,” says Conley. “You can use it for personal reflection or you can explore the prompts with a colleague or your team.”
“The key thing,” says Blanchard, “is to share our simple truths with your people and then say, ‘Let's read these together and see how we can use them.’ We hope it's going to be a great pass-along book.”
The authors believe today’s world is in desperate need of a new leadership model.
“The type of leadership we’ve seen in past decades has produced record low levels of trust and engagement in the workforce,” says Conley. “Clearly, what we’ve been doing isn’t working. We need a leadership philosophy grounded in serving others and leading with trust.”
“I don't think there is a more important role today than being a leader,” says Blanchard. “And remember—you’re not only a leader at work, you’re a leader at home and in your community, too. In fact, anytime you get a chance to influence other people, you are engaging in leadership. So be aware of the impact you're having on people. We hope Simple Truths of Leadership will help you make a positive difference in all aspects of your life.”
About the authors:
David Witt is a Program Director for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.