With an introduction on using the principles in our life and career, this book redefines what it means to be a leader. In this absorbing tale, we watch the timeless principles of servant leadership unfold through the story of John Daily, a businessman whose outwardly successful life is spiraling out of control. He is failing miserably in each of his leadership roles as boss, husband, father, and coach. To get his life back on track, he reluctantly attends a weeklong leadership retreat at a remote Benedictine monastery.
To John’s surprise, the monk leading the seminar is a former business executive and Wall Street legend. Taking John under his wing, the monk guides him to a realization that is simple yet profound: The true foundation of leadership is not power, but authority, which is built upon relationships, love, service, and sacrifice.
Along with John, we learn that the principles in this book are neither new nor complex. They don’t demand special talents; they are simply based on strengthening the bonds of respect, responsibility, and caring with the people around us. The book’s message can be applied by anyone, anywhere—at home or at work. It is filled with smart and wise observations. It is written in the form of a parable/fable. Here is a brief summary of the story:
A businessman, John, a “leader,” is not doing so well. He finally takes a week to go off to a spiritual retreat center, where he falls under the leadership of Simeon, a teacher who left a very successful business career and became a monk after the death of his wife. While at the retreat center, Simeon taught John, and a small group of other leaders, the importance of and the path toward genuine servant leadership.
The four stages of habits--all habits (good and bad)--move predictably through four stages, and developing character/leadership skills is no exception. (We can discipline ourselves to do what is unnatural until it becomes natural and a habit).
Stage 1--Unconscious/unskilled: The person is unaware and therefore unskilled in the habit.
Stage 2--Conscious/unskilled: The person is aware but not good at it.
Stage 3--Conscious/skilled: The person is aware and starting to become skilled.
Stage 4--Unconscious/skilled: It’s now drilled into your game.
In this book, the author clearly and simply defines “leadership,” i.e., the skill of influencing people to work enthusiastically toward goals identified as being for the common good: “Simply put, leadership is about getting things done through people.”
One of leadership practices is that leaders have to get very good at listening. Here’s a part of the dialogues between Simeon and John: “All my working life, I listened to people tell me how their employees were their most valuable asset. But their actions always spoke their true beliefs: people talk a lot alike, but it’s often only lip service. Actions speak louder than words. Intentions + Actions = Will.”
“When we publicly punish someone, we obviously have embarrassed them in front of their peers, and that is a huge withdrawal out of our account with them. When we publicly praise, appreciate, and recognize others, we not only make a deposit into our account with the recipient of the praise, but also make deposits into the accounts we have with those watching.”
Here are the lessons:
#1--“You begin with a choice.” Will you serve the people you lead?
#2--Servant Leaders serve first by listening (and noticing).
#3--Servant Leaders always love, i.e., loving actions is the center of their leadership philosophy.
#4--Servant Leaders always provide an environment that encourages and enables the people they lead to flourish and grow in their work and in their lives.
Management is not something we do to other people. We manage our inventory, our checkbook, our resources, too. We can even manage ourselves. When we manage our things, we lead people.