Great Leaders SERVE

July 21, 2014

I had the chance to travel to Greece and Bulgaria recently and give a series of leadership presentations to several university groups with a small team of business professionals. The sights, food and people were reward enough, but getting to share our leadership presentations with the future leaders of two countries added a special sense of purpose to the trip. Even better, our message had been carefully constructed to include leadership principles that have proved timeless across all disciplines. Let me tell you more about it.

Mark Miller developed the SERVE model and curriculum and collaborated with Ken Blanchard to publish it in their book The Secret. Each member of our small team presented a portion of the model. I’ll summarize it for you here below.

Waiter Serving Dish

See & Shape the Future

The first thing leaders must do is be able to envision a future that is somehow different than (and an improvement on) what exists today. Think about it: if the status quo is just fine, then leaders are unnecessary. Next, leaders must be able to communicate the vision to those around them and work proactively to shape the course. After all, nothing happens without someone going first.

Engage and Develop Others

In the course of pursuing any vision, leaders must find a way to engage the people around them so that they are “in it” for themselves, not just falling in line. When followers are engaged, they know what’s in it for them and they also know where they fit in the broader scheme of things. There are many visions out there to follow. Giving your followers the chance to grow is one of the best ways to ensure they choose your vision over the rest.

Reinvent Continuously

The “what” of the vision won’t change (if it does, then it’s a new vision), but the how is always subject to change. Change is often painful but it’s necessary. When times are bad, change is easy – in the sense that there is not much choice involved. Either change or suffer the consequences. It’s much more difficult to embrace a change mindset when things are going well. That’s why constant improvement requires leadership to stay disciplined and look for ways to make things better.

Value Results and Relationships

The brilliant thing about this principle is that it makes results and relationships mutually inclusive vs. exclusive. Instead of pursuing one at the expense of the other, a vision is best served when a high value is placed on both. Many leaders tend to lean in one direction over another. That’s okay as long as there are other leaders to help provide balance, but the most successful teams find ways to win together – as a team.

Embody the Values

According to Mark Miller, someone who embodies the values exemplifies the non-negotiable elements that comprise the organization’s culture. When there is a disconnect between what a leader says and what they do, not only is credibility lost, but so is most of the motivation to follow. Trust is the ultimate foundation for any successful relationship, especially the relationship a leader has with followers. It only works when values, words and actions all point in the same direction.

You’ve probably noticed by now that the main focus of the SERVE model is always other people. A self-serving leader just won’t make it very far. Zig Ziglar famously said that you can have anything you want it you will just help enough other people get what they want. Will you join me in looking for new ways to SERVE?

If you’d like to assess your ability to lead according to this SERVE model, take this assessment from the author’s site.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his new ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website  or follow him on Twitter.