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A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

The scope of the subject matter within A QualitEvolution extends to the furthest ranges of quality, business transformation, management science, and quality issues especially pertinent to the members of ASQ in Canada.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Start with Why - Sustain with Servant Leadership

In November, I had the opportunity to review comments from the ASQ Board of Directors, who advocated the positive concepts of Sinek and the Servant Leadership approach as a suitable leadership model for Quality.  A significant portion of the content below on Servant Leadership is extracted from the November Quality Progress.  

The purpose of this article is to summarize these ideas in order to build awareness and interest, and subsequently have more quality professionals receptive to these very constructive and collaborative approaches.

Simon Sinek, the renowned business author and communicator, has delivered a series of leadership books and presentations with the theme “Start With Why”.  Leadership arises when the focus is directed to WHY a business or organization exists:
-          Start with WHY, then use that to determine HOW and WHAT
-          Trust is based on common values and beliefs, and is inspired by WHY
-          Our willingness to follow a leader reflects and is an expression of ourselves
-          Leaders must have a vision that inspires others
-          Leadership is a responsibility of service to others for their benefit

According to Sinek, when leading by inspiration, not manipulation, the emphasis is on the shared purposes, causes, and beliefs.  The salient below reflect Sinek’s overview of this approach and its benefits:
-          Groups of people form from having a common set of values and beliefs
-          Inspire from the Inside-Out with Authenticity
o    Clarity of Why
o    Discipline of How
o    Consistency of What
-          Trust is a human condition, essential for our survival
o    Judge the quality of the crew in rough waters
o    Rational brain focuses on What, and controls thoughts and analytical elements
o    Limbic brain focuses on How and Why, and controls feelings, trust, loyalty, behavior, language, and decisions
-          Reliance on symbols to draw other with common values and beliefs
o    Feelings and decisions are not rational but emotional
o    Feelings say something about WHO WE ARE
-          Law of Diffusion
o    First 16% (2.5% Innovators, 13.5% Early Adopters) trust their gut and are intuitive to adopt new ideas and products
o    Last 16% are laggards and the last to adopt
o    Middle 68% majority wait for all early adopters to use the “trial version” and need 20% penetration before becoming engaged
o    Shift from Early Adopters to Majority is “Tipping Point”, and transcendence is “Crossing the Chasm”
-          Leaders prove what they believe – undying belief in a future vision
o    Strategy is adaptable when you have a clear sense of where you are going
o    Outcomes (Money, Quotas, Results) are not the target but arbitrary
-          Leadership is a responsibility, not a rank or position
o    Serving those who serve others provides very high satisfaction and fulfillment
o    Great leaders sacrifice themselves for others
o    We follow those who lead for ourselves (i.e. 250,000 people who came to hear Dr. Martin Luther King came for themselves and their common values and beliefs)

This actually aligns very closely with the Servant Leadership concept advocated by Greenleaf and his contemporaries.   According to Greenleaf et al, servant leadership is a philosophy that emphasizes focusing first on others’ needs. Servant leaders are attentive to the growth and development of their stakeholders, including employees, customers, partners and the community. This approach enriches the lives of individuals, builds organizations that are more customer-focused and that it ultimately creates a more just and caring world:
  • Servant leadership is a timeless concept—especially relevant for quality organizations because of its relationship with continuous improvement.
  • Organizations benefit from servant leadership because it creates more effective and innovative teams and greater profitability.
  • It can be practiced by anyone, regardless of his or her location in the organizational hierarchy.
"The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?
Characteristics of Servant Leadership include:
  • Service first: Service to others is the prime motivator of the servant leader, and leadership becomes the way of providing that service.
  • Community building: Servant leaders define their stakeholders broadly, focus on the common good and seek to build a trusting community.
  • Persuasion not coercion: Servant leaders do not dictate or autocratically exercise power. Rather, they persuade others to agree and to act.
  • Followers willingly follow: Followers of servant leaders choose to follow, voluntarily, because they trust the servant leader and own a shared purpose.
  • Journey: Servant leadership is a journey—a process of continuous improvement and growth.
  • Asking questions: A servant leader values the wisdom of others and therefore addresses any issue by asking questions.
  • Listening: Servant leaders are experts in listening. Iarocci and Monroe said servant leaders automatically respond to any problem by listening first.
  • Withdrawing and reorienting: Servant leaders are self-reflective and practice the art of withdrawing and reorienting to improve their perspective on the self and the work at hand.
  • Exercising foresight: Servant leaders practice foresight by keeping up with current events, scanning the horizon for signals of change, listening actively and looking outside the boundaries of their own organizations.
  • Growing others: Servant leaders relentlessly pursue the growth and development of others and create more servant leaders, not more followers.
Organization which practice servant leadership are marked by lower levels of absenteeism, greater customer satisfaction, and higher levels of productivity and performance,  Because servant leaders are attentive to the growth and development of others, individuals who practice servant leadership tend to positively influence those around them and, in turn, create more servant leaders.
Seven key dimensions of servant leadership were defined:
·         behaving ethically,
·         emotional healing,
·         putting subordinates first,
·         helping subordinates grow and succeed,
·         empowering,
·         creating value for the community, and
·         conceptual skills.

These researchers found servant leadership to significantly enhance commitment to the organization, job performance, and community citizenship behavior.  These studies demonstrated that servant leadership led to team performance through its positive influence on trust. When subordinates feel psychologically safe, they are willing to take risks associated with being creative, are willing to challenge the status quo (which leads to better decision making), and are motivated to perform well as a way of reciprocating for fair treatment by the leader.

Servant leadership was shown to positively influence the relationship between goal clarity and team potency. Servant leaders gain team member trust and build long term relationships by showing genuine concern for all team members.  And because it is the leader’s team, follower trust in leadership acts to elevate team members’ trust in the capabilities of their team to be effective. Servant leaders, who are fair, and honest with team members, promote open and problem-driven communication within the team, resulting in enhanced team member confidence in their team’s capabilities to be effective even in the face of uncertainty and obstacles. Servant leaders cultivate personal integrity among team members to create a spiritual climate within the team, which elicits team members to cooperate with and care about each other and enables them to be optimistic about their team’s capabilities to be effective.
Servant leadership was researched by academics (Piccolo & Colquitt, 2006), (Liden et al., 2008) , (Neubert, Kacmar, Carlson, Chonko, & Roberts, 2008) and ((Mayer, Bardes, & Piccolo, 2008) to demonstrate its impact on organizations and satisfaction.  The full reference list is below.


Simon Sinek – YouTube presentations (multiple)

Ehrhart, M. G. (2004). Leadership and procedural justice climate as antecedents of unit-level organizational citizenship behavior. Personnel Psychology, 57, 61-94.

Graham, J. W. (1991). Servant leadership in organizations: Inspirational and moral. Leadership Quarterly, 2, 105-119.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1970). The servant as leader. Newton Centre, MA: The Robert K. Greenleaf Center.

Hale, J. R.,& Fields, D. L. (2007). Exploring servant leadership across cultures: A study of followers in Ghana and the USA. Leadership, 3(4), 397-417.

Han, Y., Kakabadse, N. K., & Kakabadse, A. (2010). Servant leadership in the People's Republic of China: A case study of the public sector. Journal of Management
, 29(3), 265-281.

Hu, J., & Liden, R.C. (2011). Antecedents of team potency and team effectiveness: An examination of goal and process clarity and servant leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 851-862.

Liden, R.C. (2012). Leadership research in Asia: A brief assessment and suggestions for the future. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 29, 205-212.

Liden, R.C., Panaccio, A., Meuser, J.D., Hu, J., & Wayne, S.J. (in press). Servant leadership: Antecedents, processes, and outcomes. In Day, D.V. (Ed.) The Oxford handbook of leadership and organizations. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Liden, R.C., Wayne, S. J., Zhao, H. & Henderson, D. (2008). Servant leadership: Development of a multidimensional measures and multilevel assessment, Leadership Quarterly, 19, 161-177.

Mayer, D. M., Bardes, M., & Piccolo, R. F. (2008). Do servant-leaders help satisfy follower needs? An organizational justice perspective. European Journal of Work
and Organizational Psychology, 17,

Neubert, M. J., Kacmar, K. M., Carlson, D. S., Chonko, L. B., & Roberts, J. A. (2008). Regulatory focus as a mediator of the influence of initiating structure and servant leadership on employee behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology,93(6), 1220-1233.

Peterson, S., Galvin, B. M., & Lange, D. 2012. CEO servant leadership: Exploring executive characteristics and firm performance. Personnel Psychology, 65: 565-596.

Piccolo, R. F.,& Colquitt, J.A. (2006). Transformational leadership and job behaviors: The mediating role of core job characteristics. Academy of Management Journal, 49, 327-340.

Schaubroeck, J., Lam, S. S. K., & Peng, A. C. 2011. Cognition-based and affect-based trust as mediators of leader behavior influences on team performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96: 863-871.

Van Dierendonck, D. 2011. Servant leadership: A review and synthesis. Journal of Management, 37: 1228-1261.

Walumbwa, F. O., Hartnell, C. A., & Oke, A. (2010). Servant leadership, procedural justice climate, service climate, employee attitudes, and organizational citizenship behavior: A cross-level investigation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 517-529.

Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (seventh edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.