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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Servant Leadership

I read every comment posted to my blog and do my best to learn from the wisdom of the community.   Two comments made about my recent post Honey or Vinegar deserve special highlight.

Tony Parham posted a comment comparing Management and Leadership, quoting the work of John Kotter and Colin Powell.

 "MANAGEMENT: Control mechanisms to compare system behavior with the plan and take action when a deviation is detected.
LEADERSHIP: Achieving grand visions. Motivation and inspiration to energize people, not by pushing them in the right direction as control mechanisms do, but by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one's life, and the ability to live up to one's ideals. Such feelings touch us deeply and elicit a powerful response."
- John P. Kotter, Professor of organizational behavior at the Harvard Business School

“LEADERSHIP is the art of accomplishing more than the science of MANAGEMENT says is possible."
- Colin Powell

My experience is that as long as a leader unites a team with a clear common goal and enables the team to do their work while supporting their self-esteem and their decisions about scope/time/resources, people thrive.   Even recent medical evidence suggests that "Honey" and the positive support of a leader yields healthy, productive, and happy staff.   Lack of such a leader can lead to negative health and reduced longevity.   It seems intuitive that our moods are linked closely to our job satisfaction and that positive mood improves health, but now we have evidence to prove it.

Katherina Holzhauser, a fellow Stanford graduate from the Czech Republic wrote to me about Servant Leadership  as part of her philosophy of favoring "Honey" over "Vinegar".  

The important take home lesson about Servant Leadership is the classic organization chart really needs to be rewritten, making staff who interact with customers the most important people in the organization.   The role of a leader to serve and support those staff so that they have the resources and processes they need to optimize customer experiences.   I completely agree with the statement that the highest priority of a servant leader is to encourage, support and enable subordinates to unfold their full potential and abilities. This leads to an obligation to delegate responsibility and engage in participative decision-making.

The goals of a servant leader - listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion (which I call informal authority), conceptualization (which I call continuous self re-examination), foresight, stewardship, commitment to penple (which I call loyalty), and building community - are what guide my day to day interactions in all aspects of my life.

As we take on more work in less time at faster pace than every before, let's all strive to be servant leaders for the benefit of those who do the work and serve on the front lines healthcare and healthcare IT in our quest to alleviate human suffering caused by disease.

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