The Paradoxes of Servant Leadership

I love this poem, which describes the paradoxes of being a "Servant-Leader". 

Strong enough to be weak

Successful enough to fail

Busy enough to make time

Wise enough to say "I don't know"

Serious enough to laugh

Rich enough to be poor

Right enough to say "I'm wrong"

Compassionate enough to discipline

Mature enough to be childlike

Important enough to be last

Planned enough to be spontaneous

Controlled enough to be flexible

Free enough to endure captivity

Knowledgeable enough to ask questions

Loving enough to be angry

Great enough to be anonymous

Responsible enough to play

Assured enough to be rejected

Victorious enough to lose

Industrious enough to relax

Leading enough to serve

Poem by Brewer — as cited by Hansel, in Holy Sweat, Dallas Texas, Word, 1987. (p29)

Do You Have Trapped Thinking?

Trapped  Since I left Dell, I’ve had conversations with several friends who were looking to take  their careers outside of Dell. They asked how I did it nearly 5 years ago. I told them I spent 2 years networking and evaluating ideas outside of Dell.  That’s not to say I didn’t perform during that time…in fact I ran a marketing department and helped grow a $1B business by 50%. However, just by ‘getting out’ I met great people and evaluated several opportunities. At first it was exploratory, but in the end it opened my eyes to the fact there was a world outside of the world my head was in 8 hours a day (er…make that 10 hours a day). 

What I observed after these lunches with my ex-Dell friends was discouraging. They took no action. They didn’t research companies or ask for contacts or set up lunches with people outside of Dell. They were absorbed inside the walls of their company. Their scope was trapped inside the company, inside their division, inside their team, and inside of their roles in aforementioned team, division and company! Their thinking was trapped, and therefore their action was trapped…therefore their career was trapped.

There is a similar problem of becoming more customer-centric as a marketer. When you are absorbed in the internal, your thinking is trapped in the rules of your day-to-day job. Internal measures, internal meetings, and internal perspectives. You’re surrounded by the 3-4 walls of your cube, surrounded by the four walls of your building, surrounded by a company perspective. For Pete’s sake (pretend that’s your customer), how are you able to think about the customer…let alone act on their behalf?

Break out! Change your day to day to include interaction with customers, their voice, and their data. Change the topics of your team meetings and 1x1s. Start with customer-centric measures rather than financial measures. Read reviews on your products every week, and do something about that. Attend a focus group, usability study and conduct a survey. Set up the Google alerts on your brand and set up a time on your calendar to read Tweets and other social media about your company.

Once you make a decision to get out of trapped thinking, and start breathing customer oxygen, it will change the way you look at your job and change the decisions you make. Just imagine if everyone in your company did that!