Catching the waves of servant leadership

As human beings, we’ve always had a complicated relationship with change.
On the one hand we see it all around us and try to cope with the complexity of it, attempting to avoid or even sabotage it in order to hang on for dear life, to what we have always known to be normal, and therefore believe it to be what’s best.

On the other hand, it’s what allows us to hope and strive, what drives us towards a dream for a better future – and so we look for ways to form it, to mould it, even manipulate it at times, thinking that, whatever comes out of the change will be better and lasting.
But does change have an outcome? Or is it endlessly moving forward?
This continuous tension between coping and moulding makes our relationship with change a very personal one. Every day we strive, all of us, in this global community, to find a moment of peace with ourselves and with the ways we try to manage this uncertainty and complexity.
And sometimes, when the odds are right, in a cursory moment of clear thoughts, we discover that precious balance, and see the bigger picture. That’s when we embrace change and sense the opportunity…
Projecting this mechanism from the personal into the organisational area, the same elements are at play. But the personal aspect is still the crucial driver (and the key to unlock it), that can push corporate change forward or go against it like a stubborn forceful undercurrent.
Tapping into that current, though, is the key to unlocking the potential of an engaged community of professionals, and so helping the organisational culture grow organically. And doing that needs a ‘feel’ for what our present corporate culture is about. But more so it requires an understanding of what the employees building our brand, and the people creating the customer value – really strive for, personally and professionally.

Easier said than done, you think? Maybe so, especially when you’re working in a traditional corporate world, with siloed processes, with lots of gates and handovers, often distorting communication and slowing down value delivery. It does indeed call for a veritable paradigm shift, not just new management practices, but a management revolution;

a shift towards a new approach, focussed on what these value creators actually require in order to thrive in your organisation, for the benefit of your brand. Enabling them to become better, more inventive, more efficient, and allowing them to listen closely and collaborate with the customer, is the most successful way forward in our age of agile.

This is of course not a one (wo)man show. Complexity is not something we can tackle with a single mind solution. Agile transformation, like cultural transformation, can only be set in motion by natural leaders, and by this I don’t necessarily mean ‘managers’. They can be emergent leaders from any level in the organisation. People who spread vibes, generate positive energy, think beyond the borders of their own roles and put their brains to work to reimagine how value is created. What defines them is that they ‘service’ their community, and that service is exactly one of their personal goals.

As a manager, make sure these emergent leaders experience the room to move. Each one comes with a natural community, call it a ‘tribe’.  Explore every nook and cranny of the company to trace them. Then help them to understand the agile strategy, and support them to instigate an agile mindset and a zest for growth, by taking small but consistent steps, clear and aligned.

The organisation will be surfing their powerful waves. And with the help of these servant leaders throughout the company, you’ll be able to blow the wind in the right direction, towards the customer.

Not one thing ever does it,
it’s a series of consistent things that makes people say
“Aha, it’s time for change”

~ Oprah Winfrey


Recommended reading:

  • Stephen Denning – The Age of Agile: How smart companies are transforming the way work gets done
  • Sunil Mudra – Enterprise agility: Being agile in a changing world
  • Seth Godin – Tribes
  • Em Campbell Pretty – Tribal unity: Getting from teams to tribes by creating a one team culture