In this episode of Leading Well, Jeremy Couch interviews Mark Goldstein, president of the Central Florida Christian Chamber. In 2009, Mark took over the struggling organization and re-built it with a new vision centered on relationships. Ten years later, the Christian Chamber is a thriving organization that serves the Central Florida business and faith community. In this interview, Mark talks about his journey of taking over the Chamber and believing in faith that God had called him to lead this organization into a new future. Mark provides some great tips and insights on trusting God and believing in a vision that is bigger than you.
How would you characterize the culture of your organization or team?
In this episode of Leading Well, Jeremy Couch discusses the importance of organizational culture and explains what a toxic culture looks like. He identifies the signs to look out for and then contrasts the detrimental effects of a toxic culture with the positive attributes of a thriving culture.
When you lead others, one of the greatest challenges you will face is keeping yourself from becoming critical. Leaders expect a lot from people (as they should), and when those expectations are not met, they can quickly become cynical. At first it might happen only occasionally, but over time cynicism sets in and it becomes a habit. Eventually, cynicism leads to a perpetual state of criticism.
It’s at this point that your leadership can begin to suffer. Being constantly critical and negative brings others down, and it erodes your ability to lead well. The bottom line is this–people don’t want to follow a leader who is always critical.
On the other hand, you can still maintain high standards and expectations by being constructive instead of critical.
How does a leader do this?
1) Affirm the positive – provide affirmation and encouragement. Team members need to know what they are doing well, and they need to hear it from you on a consistent basis.
2) Be honest but kind – share openly and honestly about any area that needs improvement, but do it in a way that is not demeaning or harsh. Frame it as an opportunity for growth and development, not something that is punitive.
3) Offer solutions – lastly, being constructive means bringing ideas to the table that will improve the situation. Critics thrive on bringing others down; constructive leaders thrive on building others up by sharing insights that will help them become their best.
Leaders should have high expectations, but they should never drag people down with criticism when those those expectations are not met. Commit to being a leader that others want to follow by offering constructive feedback that challenges people to grow and improve.
I’ve posted about servant leadership many times, so clearly it’s something that I believe in and want other leaders to believe in as well. But I think the challenge for some leaders is that they just cannot overcome the biases or mis-perceptions they have regarding what it means to be a servant leader. And as a result, they have a hard time embracing this approach to leading.
There are various ways to define servant leadership, but the definition I use is this: “Intentionally placing the needs of others and the success of the organization before your own.” Most leaders would probably agree that this sounds good and they should aspire to lead this way. However, knowing it in your head and putting it into practice are two different things.
So I want to take a moment to dispel three myths that might be holding you back from fully embracing servant leadership. Here they are:
Myth #1: Servant leaders are weak. Lowering yourself and taking on the attitude of a servant can make you seem very feeble in the eyes of some people. Why? Because our society has conditioned us to think that we have to look out for our own needs first and foremost, sometimes at any cost.
Reality: Servant leadership actually requires a great deal of strength to put the needs of others before your own. It is not easy though. If it were, everyone would do it. As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” To be a servant leader means being humble, and it takes great strength and confidence to display humility. In his business classic Good to Great, Jim Collins described the concept of Level 5 Leadership (very similar to servant leadership), and all of the leaders he examined possessed a high level of personal humility. These leaders of great companies were anything but weak.
Myth #2: Servant leadership is not effective. Again, the naysayers hear servant leadership and think it is something that sounds good on paper but doesn’t work in practice. The hard-charging, demanding, Type-A leader has a hard time seeing how this approach can lead to tangible results.
Reality: If you ever had doubts about the effectiveness of servant leadership, don’t. Need proof? Read Dare to Serve by Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeye’s. In her book she explains how a company-wide approach to servant leadership produced superior, sustained results throughout the entire company. Need more examples? Look at the success of other great servant-minded companies such as Chick-fil-A, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos, to name a few. The results speak for themselves.
Myth #3: Servant leadership is not relevant today. The world has changed so much in recent decades that perhaps such a seemingly simple approach to leading is not relevant and sophisticated enough for today’s work environment.
Reality: We have never been more in need of servant leaders than we are today. Whether it be in our corporations, governments, schools, communities, churches, or our homes, our world is starving for leaders who will have the audacity to place the needs of the people they lead first and foremost, instead of just looking out for their own self-interests. Servant leadership is absolutely relevant today, and it is desperately needed because of its power to transform and inspire people.
I hope addressing these myths has helped you better understand the effectiveness and importance of servant leadership. And I further hope that you will embrace servant leadership and adopt it as a model for how you will lead others. You won’t regret it.
Need some inspiration and motivation for improving your leadership this year? I find that quotes are an effective means of communicating important and meaningful insights in a concise and focused manner, so one of the things I like to do is write down quotes on index cards and then look at a different one every day. Then I try to apply that quote to my own leadership by evaluating how I can improve based on the message that is being conveyed.
Following are 11 quotes that can help you get better as a leader in 2017. I hope you will read them and take them to heart!