Servant Leaders Outperform Because They Connect

Servant leaders connect with the people they lead and create Connection Cultures that are essential to achieve sustainable superior performance. Connection is defined as a bond that exists among a group of people based on shared identity, empathy and understanding that moves self–centered individuals toward group-centered membership.  Here’s an example of a servant leader that brings the force of connection to life.

Retired CNO Admiral Vern Clark was formerly the chief of the U.S. Navy from 2000 until 2005. When Admiral Clark became the chief, first term re-enlistment didn’t meet the Navy’s goal of 38 percent. Within a little more than a year, it soared from under 38 percent to 56.7 percent and the Navy had more sailors that it needed.  Although I don’t have space in this article to tell you all of what Admiral Clark did, his actions can be summarized in three words: Vision, Value and Voice.

Leadership, Employee Engagement and Innovation at BIF-6 Summit


Last week I attended the 2010
Business Innovation Factory Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, Rhode Island (referred to as BIF-6).  There were so many thoughtful presentations that I hesitate to merely highlight a few.   After taking a couple days to mull it over I’ve decided to select a few presentations that will be most relevant to the themes I typically write and speak about i.e. leadership, connection, employee engagement, productivity and innovation.  Below are brief descriptions of several presentations from the conference.  For those who want to hear these or other presentations, you can access them at this link.

The Collective Wisdom of Relationship-Centered Networks

When individuals feel like valued members of a group, it boosts a host of positive outcomes including superior decision-making, employee engagement, employee motivation, strategic alignment, organizational learning, cooperation, productivity, innovation and overall performance. This applies to groups of all sizes including classrooms and schools, families, business and government organizations, hospitals, sports teams and the social sector.  Strong relationships are key for any group to achieve the benefits enumerated above.

In an earlier post, I wrote about the University of Chicago research on relational trust that I learned about from my friend Parker Palmer.  For those of you who are interested in relational trust and the wisdom of crowds, I encourage you to check out this fascinating interview my friend Robert Morris, the freelance writer, did with Alan Briskin, co-author of The Power of Collective Wisdom. In the interview, Briskin and Morris discuss relationship centered networks that tap into collective wisdom.

For those of you who read Robert Morris’ book review and interview, you will see why I believe he is among the very best at what he does.  In addition to being a well-organized, clear writer, Morris is a Renaissance man who always sprinkles his writings and interviews with thoughtful insights drawn from remarkably diverse fields of knowledge.  Check out his book reviews and interviews at this link and you’ll see what what I mean.

Brain Research: To Improve Learning, Use Whole Body

We learn best when we think, feel and do.  That’s the message of Dr. Adele Diamond, a cognitive developmental neuroscientist who currently teaches at the University of British Columbia in Canada.  We might refer to this as “whole body learning.”  According to Dr. Diamond, the executive function of the brain — the prefrontal cortex — works best when we go beyond the rational mind by also involving emotions and physical behaviors.  That makes sense since the more we involve other parts of the brain, the more neural connections we make that reinforce learning.

The implications are wide-ranging.  It reminds me of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and Robert Sternberg’s identification of different thinking styles. The more we incorporate different approaches to learning that speak to diverse individuals who are wired to learn differently, the greater the probability they will in fact learn.

Are you using more than analytic, rational methods of learning?   Do you use stories to move people emotionally?  Do you employ exercises that require people to behave in ways that will help them learn?

For those who want to go deeper, there a fascinating hour-long interview of Dr. Adele Diamond by Krista Tippett of American Public Radio’s “Speaking of Faith” program that you can hear at this link.

Video Training: Connection Cultures in Churches

Some of you know that in addition to speaking and teaching leadership at organizations such at Google, NASA, Johnson & Johnson and the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business, Jason Pankau and I frequently speak in churches about how Judaeo-Christian values lived out create what we refer to as a “Connection Culture.” To learn more, watch the following video series of Jason Pankau teaching a workshop on Connection Cultures for Churches.

Session 1 – The Case for Connection
Session 2 – Creating a Connection Culture
Session 3 – Inspiring Identity
Session 4 – Knowledge Flow
Session 5 – Committed Members and Servant Leaders

US Navy and U2: What Connection?

The US Navy and U2 in the same article! Huh?

That’s right.  It’s true. Check it out for yourself.

The Leader to Leader Institute just posted an article on its website that Jason Pankau and I wrote for the Summer edition of the Leader to Leader Journal. The article features the stories of the US Navy’s former Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Vern Clark, and Bono, the lead singer of the rock band U2.  The article is about the topic of connecting with “core employees” to boost strategic alignment, employee engagement, productivity and innovation.  Here is a link to the article entitled “To Boost Performance, Connect with the Core.”

The Anxiety of Learning

Here’s a link to a brilliant interview of Edgar Schein entitled “The Anxiety of Learning.” I’ve always found Schein’s insights and frameworks to be useful when it comes to understanding and orchestrating organizational change. Schein thinks of people as falling into three groups when it comes to change: collaborators, passives and resisters. He astutely observed that survival anxiety must exceed learning anxiety for an individual to be sufficiently motivated to learn. The interview is conducted by Diane Coutu, who has done outstanding work over the years as a senior editor at Harvard Business Review (Note: Ms. Coutu is now editing and writing on her own).

LeaderLab Podcast Interview

Jason Pankau and I were recently guests on LeaderLab’s podcast interviews available online or at iTunes. LeaderLab’s podcasts are hosted by David Burkus. David’s past guests on LeaderLab’s podcasts have included Marshall Goldsmith, Daniel Pink and Steve Farber. Check it out.

The Need to Respect Legitimate Authority and One’s Colleagues

With the recent firing of General McChrystal as commander of American forces in Afghanistan over his insubordination, I thought it would be an ideal time to reproduce here what I wrote in Fired Up or Burned Out about one of the greatest military leaders in history, America’s Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall.

Marshall created a culture that stands in stark contrast to the culture created by General McChrystal as reported in a Rolling Stone magazine article entitled “The Runaway General.” Defenders of McChrystal argue he was speaking truth to power.  General Marshall was known for speaking truth to power but, unlike McChrystal, he recognized the need to respect legitimate authority and to always be respectful in dealing with the people he interacted with whether they were fellow soldiers, diplomats or representatives of foreign governments.

Because Marshall possessed humility of character, he knew that he was not always right and had to defer to the decisions of his superior in the chain-of-command then put extra effort into executing such decisions. As a result, Marshall had the complete confidence of the leaders he reported to such as General John “Blackjack” Pershing and President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt.

Marshall should be one of the role models all leaders strive to emulate. The title of the chapter I wrote about General Marshall was  “Soldier of Peace.”  You can read it below.