An expert in servant leadership lives in Des Moines
And I go hear him talk every chance I get. This week was another of those occasions. Jim Autry is an author, poet, consultant and retired president of the magazine group of the Meredith Corporation.
Long ago I read his bestseller Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership. I kept notes from that book in my planner for years because I thought his ideas made so much sense. I’ve now started The Servant Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve Bottom-Line Performance because this seems to be a time that kind of thinking is desperately needed.
Autry talked about being a servant leader Monday at a conference for communicators and IT professionals. After his speech, I heard many comment that they don’t see that kind of leadership today in their organizations.
Here’s what Autry writes in his introduction to The Servant Leader:
“Leadership in service of others requires a great deal of courage. It was far easier to be the old top-down kind of boss..Just as business, or organizational life of any sort, is not about what’s efficient, it’s also not about what’s easy. It’s about what’s most effective. And what we’ve learned is that over the long-term, the old top-down, command-control ways don’t work as well as some managers would like to think. They dispirit and frustrate people; they suppress creativity; and they rob organizations of people’s best efforts.”
The essence of a servant leader
A servant leader has these characteristics: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others and building community.
The Wikipedia entry on servant leadership concludes with this:
“Unlike leadership approaches with a top-down hierarchical style, Servant Leadership instead emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power. At heart, the individual is a servant first, making the conscious decision to lead in order to better serve others, not to increase their own power. The objective is to enhance the growth of individuals in the organization and increase teamwork and personal involvement.”
A challenge to my readers
This summer, take some time to read. I’d recommend these two books by Autry. I believe anyone can be a leader and a servant leader is the best kind. I’ll write more about Autry’s thinking in later posts but it would be fun to have you reading along with me. Book club discussions always broaden our thinking as we listen to what others emphasize and their personal stories that relate to the book. Maybe you won’t post comments but you can compare what you thought vs. what I highlight. I’ll do some interlude posts to give you folks time to find the books and start reading.