The Heart Transplant Today’s Leaders Need

Today I’m excited to share a guest post from Dr. Ken Blanchard. Dr. Blanchard is a leadership expert, speaker, and author. His New York Times best-selling book, The One Minute Manager, has sold over 13 million copies. Dr. Ken Blanchard will also be a speaker at our National Leadership Forum this summer in Atlanta. Learn more about Dr. Blanchard and the National Leadership Forum here


Effective leadership is all about character and intention. Ask yourself: “Why am I leading?” Is it to serve or be served? Answering this question truthfully, even just to yourself, is so important, because you can’t fake being a servant leader. If leaders don’t get the heart part right, they simply won’t ever become servant leaders.

The most persistent barrier to being a servant leader is a heart motivated by self-interest. A self-interested heart looks at the world as a “give a little, take a lot” proposition. Leaders with hearts motivated by self-interest put their own agenda, safety, status, and gratification ahead of others who are affected by their thoughts and actions.

In a sense, developing a “servant’s heart” is a lifelong journey. It is my belief that you finally become an adult when you realize that life is about what you can give rather than what you can get. The shift from self-serving leadership to leadership that serves others is motivated by a change in heart. Servant leadership is not just another management technique. It is a way of life for those with servant’s hearts.

When some people hear the phrase servant leadership, they associate it with “soft management”—they think you can’t lead and serve at the same time. Yet, you can—if you understand this truth:

There are two kinds of leadership involved in servant leadership: strategic leadership and operational leadership.

Helping Children

Strategic leadership has to do with vision and direction. This is the leadership aspect of servant leadership. The responsibility for this visionary role falls to the hierarchical leadership. Kids look to their parents, players look to their coaches, and people look to their organizational leaders for direction.

Once people are clear on where they are going, the leader’s role shifts to a service mindset, what I call operational leadership, which is all about implementation—the servant aspect of servant leadership. How do you make your vision happen?  In a traditional organization, all the energy in the organization moves up the hierarchical pyramid as people try to be responsive to their bosses, instead of focusing their energy on meeting the needs of their customers. Bureaucracy rules, and policies and procedures carry the day. This creates unprepared and uncommitted customer contact people who are trying to protect themselves and it leaves customers uncared for at the bottom of the hierarchy. This scenario doesn’t do much to move you to your organization’s desired direction: the accomplishment of a clear vision. Servant leaders, on the other hand, feel their role is to help others achieve their goals. To do that, the traditional hierarchical pyramid is theoretically turned upside down so that the frontline people, who are closest to the customers, are now at the top. Now the frontline people are responsible—able to respond—to the needs of the customers. In this scenario, leaders serve and are responsive to their people’s needs, training and developing them to accomplish established goals and live according to the organization-wide vision.

Servant leadership is not soft management; it is management that not only gets great results but also generates great human satisfaction.

If you enjoyed today’s post, you can hear more from Dr. Ken Blanchard at the 2016 National Leadership Forum.

Want to Discuss Leadership With Dr. Ken Blanchard?
Come to National Leadership Forum 2016

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The 2016 NLF will help you:

  • Identify specific action steps to foster a leadership culture.
  • Learn how to spot potential leaders early in your staff, faculty or students.
  • Develop a “growth mindset” instead of a “fixed mindset” in staff.
  • Cultivate healthy leaders at every level of your school or organization.

Learn More & Register Here

The Heart Transplant Today’s Leaders Need