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Donald Trump vs. the Servant Leadership Model

Randy Conley, VP of Client Services at The Ken Blanchard Companies sums Trump’s unstated leadership philosophy: “I’m the leader so you do what I say.” The implications of having this mindset are that you ultimately believe that:

  • The leader is smarter than anyone else

  • The leader has all the answers

  • The leader has more power than anyone else

  • The leader is in absolute control

  • Don’t question the leader

  • Followers don’t need to think for themselves; just follow the leader

  • Command and control leadership is the best way to lead

For the very succinct and full article by Conley, click here.

The last two companies that I have worked for have stressed just the opposite: the importance of Servant Leadership. In fact, one of the most iconic images of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, is of Sam on bended knee, relating to his associates, humbly listening to their concerns and suggestions. I have always loved this image of Sam. He is quoted as saying, “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” That’s quite on the opposite end of the spectrum from “You’re fired.”

The earliest concepts of Servant Leadership are found in the Tao Te Ching, attributed to Lao-Tsu. As a philosophy, it has been around for a very long time. Robert Greenleaf modernized it in the 20th century and developed the 12 tenets that include among others:

  • Listening

  • Empathy

  • Awareness

  • Growth

  • Foresight

  • Stewardship

‘Stewardship’ is a concept that stems from medieval times when a steward would be assigned to hone the skills and development of a young prince to prepare him for his future reign. When a modern leader is described as having a good sense of stewardship, we mean that he is preparing the organization to contribute to the greater good of employees, customers and society. Building a strong sense of stewardship in its leaders is perhaps one of the best things a company’s Leadership Development practice can accomplish and it should form a part of our leadership model. Building other leaders with empathy and foresight ensures our future prosperity.

And ultimately, we avoid having to say this, for failure to lead and develop others.


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