Servant Leadership

Guest Post from Ken Blanchard


Servant leadership has been around for decades, however, for many it is just becoming mainstream. It's leadership that focuses serving people not standing on a pedestal asking to be served. I'm please to host a guest post from Ken Blanchard who just happens to know a thing or two about leadership! Enjoy.

Servant Leadership: A Model for Leading in Today’s World

By Ken Blanchard

When I first began to teach managers back in the late 1960s, I met Bob Greenleaf, who was just retiring as a top AT&T executive. Bob talked about servant leadership—the concept that effective leaders and managers need to serve their people, not be served by them. It was entirely new thinking then, and in many ways Bob is considered the father of that term.

Today, it is much easier for people to see the importance and relevance of servant leadership. There seems to be general agreement that leaders have two basic roles in business: one of vision and the other of implementation.

In the visionary role, leaders are the definer of direction. They must communicate the mission, values and beliefs the organization aspires to for its people. They need to communicate what the organization stands for and how organizational values encompass the individual values of its members.

I once asked Max Dupree, who wrote a fabulous book entitled Leadership Is an Art, what he felt was the most important role of a leader. He compared the role to that of a third-grade teacher who keeps repeating the basics. "When it comes to vision and values, you have to say it over and over and over again until people get it right, right, right!"

Once people are clear on where they are going, an effective leader’s role switches to the task of implementation. How do you make the dream happen? This is where servant leadership comes into play. The traditional way of managing people is to direct, control and supervise their activities and to play the role of judge, critic and evaluator of their efforts. In a traditional organization, managers are thought of as responsible and their people are taught to be responsive to their boss.

We’re finding that kind of leadership isn’t as effective as it once was. Today when people see you as a judge and critic, they spend most of their time trying to please you rather than to accomplish the organization’s goals and move in the direction of the desired vision. "Boss watching" becomes a popular sport and people get promoted on their upward influencing skills. That role doesn’t do much for accomplishing a clear vision. All people try to do is protect themselves rather than to help move the organization in its desired direction.

The servant leader is constantly trying to find out what his or her people need to be successful. Rather than wanting them to please him or her, they are interested in making a difference in the lives of their people and, in the process, impacting the organization.

More about Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard is a best-selling business author with over 21 million books sold. His newest book, Servant Leadership in Action, is being released on March 6. Ken is also hosting a free Servant Leadership in Action Livecast on February 28 featuring more than 20 authors, CEOs, and thought leaders speaking on the topic.  Learn more here!


Who Is Running The Farm?

Storytelling is an art and has been the engine behind knowledge being passed down for thousands of years. Stories exist to entertain, educate, impress, and engage. A gratifying story is a great joke, but not everyone can tell a funny joke or graciously bring a story alive so that we find meaning or grasp new lessons. If you love an engaging story, then pick up a copy of Farmer Able by Art Barter.  This book will engulf you and take you on a journey to discover the heart of servant leadership and show why the world is not all about you.

Farmer Able is an entertaining and humorous story that takes place on Farmer Able’s farm. It’s a fun book to real with a series of short chapters each with its lesson.

The pigs are running the farm. So begins the story of Farmer Able. Everyone on his farm -- people and animals alike -- are downright downtrodden by him. He's overbearing and compulsively obsessed with profits and productivity. He's a typical top-down, power-based manager, forever tallying production numbers in his well-worn ledgers. But the more he pushes the hoofs and horns and humans, the more they dig in their heels. That is until one day when he hears a mysterious wind that whispers: "It's not all about me." Can he turn things around and begin attending to the needs of those on his farm, thus improving their attitudes and productivity?

The following is an excerpt from chapter 6 of Farmer Able.

Foreman Ryder

Farmer Able’s troubles didn’t end with all things fuzzy, furry and feathered. No, the chorus of complaint rose up from humans as well.

There was Foreman Ryder, who Farmer Able had brought in a while back to manage his affairs. The word “manage” was something Farmer Able liked to hear. It had a certain ring to it that gave this little country operation an air of importance. He could tell his fellow farmers who hung out at the grain elevator that he had “Ryder handling things.” And this little fact, seeded into his conversations, placed him apart. At least that was the intent.

Foreman Ryder came with a resume forged in the school of hard knocks. He had worked his way up from a field hand. To hear him tell it, he’d spent many a year under the hot sun, in the sweltering haymow, in the freezing winters, in the cold spring planting and frigid fall harvesting. Ryder always thought of things in terms of hot or cold. And the more he told his stories about the arduous labors of his youth, the hotter or colder every rendition became.

Yes, he had pounded out a living busting dirt, and because of all his years paying his dues, he felt it was his right to bust heads. The way he saw things, he had earned this privilege, and he made a point of making sure everyone under his charge knew it. Including the animals.

He slapped the cows to get them to hurry into the milk barn and whapped them to hurry out. With the horses, if they didn’t behave, he’d get out the twitch. This draconian device had a small loop of rope secured to the end of a sawed-off shovel handle. He would twist it tightly around a horse’s upper lip to get him “to behave.” And the poor chickens . . . well, he could just pick them up and toss them where he wanted them to go. Yes sir, Foreman Ryder had not been spared from a hardscrabble life, and neither man nor beast should be spared either.

Farmer Able was largely oblivious to this ill-tempered woe. He welcomed Ryder’s “git-er-done” attitude—at least at first. But as anyone knows, hiring power inevitably creates a power struggle. Though Foreman Ryder knew the hierarchy of things, in the grimier recesses of his mind, he certainly didn’t embrace it. A man who feels a need to lord over another inevitably smarts under the one who is over him.


Art Barter believes “everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” To teach about the power of servant leadership, Art started in his own backyard by rebuilding the culture of the manufacturing company he bought, Datron World Communications. Art took Datron’s traditional power-led model and turned it upside down and the result was the small international radio manufacturer grew from a $10 million company to a $200 million company in six years. Fueled by his passion for servant leadership, Art created the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI).

To learn more about Art and his new Servant Leadership Journal, as well as his book on servant leadership, Farmer Able: A Fable About Servant Leadership Transforming Organizations And People From The Inside Out, endorsed by Franklin Covey, Ken Blanchard Companies, and John Maxwell Co., visit


Are you ready to Dare To Serve? Is Your Garden?

"A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them" - Liberty Hyde Bailey

Photo courtesy of Barrett Discovery via
Spring is almost here which means that my weak winterized body is going to be mighty sore once I get outside working in my garden. All the pulling, cutting beds, and spreading mulch is like a landscape triathlon. If you don't believe  me just pop over and see. Springtime literally means that I'm out there serving my gardens and preparing my plants for growth. My legs will be like jelly and I'm hoping that there's some weight loss involved!

Whenever I have visitors to my garden the first thing that they always state is "Wow! This is a lot of work! How do you do it?". It is work this time of year, but I LOVE it! I know what my work will bring and it's well worth it. Once spring cleaning is done there is little labor in the garden other than some weeding and deadheading of my flowers. Gardening has never been a chore because I love it and I become completely immersed in what I'm doing. I bet that anyone who has a hobby gets a bit obsessed at times and really understands where I'm coming from. It's a labor of love and I'm happy to serve my plants to "plant the seeds" for growth.

I can't repeat myself enough in my blog. I love finding the special gifts in people and bringing them out to help with personal growth and impacting others. Like gardening, it's one of the most rewarding experiences that I am privileged to experience. I've done this as a manager and continue to have an impact even without a supervisory title. We should all be committed to serving others and bringing out the best in those that we work with. Think of the changes that we could collectively bring about.

For the past few years I've really focused on my leadership style and through some soul searching,  I've  been able to define who I am, what I stand for,  my values, and how I can help others. Serving others as a leader is like serving my gardens this time of year. Preparing for growth and seeing how I can serve to do so. I have found some powerful books and articles on the "new" leadership style  which has really impacted me - Servant Leadership.

"There's nothing fundamentally wrong with our country except that the leaders of all our major organizations are operating on the wrong assumptions" - Robert Townsend

I couldn't agree more with this quote. I just finished an incredible new book that has really impacted my leadership growth. The book is Dare To Serve: How To Drive Superior Results By Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder the CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. Cheryl enthusiastically shares how serving others as a leader ultimately impacts the bottom line but most importantly, serving influences people. People are the key to a company's success and servant leadership is rewarding for everyone. I've finally been able to define my own leadership style and Cheryl offers some sound advice on how to Dare To Serve. 

Dare To Serve is divided into 3 parts. Cheryl explains the Popeye story of rising from the ashes to financial success AND how her people grew as well through the transformation. She shows how to drive superior results. She shares how to become a Dare To Serve leader. Lastly, she offers a strong call to action. Throughout the book she shares 40 Dare To Serve reflections for the reader to think about or share with teams. They are guaranteed to get you thinking! I really enjoyed Cheryl's journey of clearly defining the issues at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and in particular, the relationships between franchisees and Popeyes employees. She doesn't hold back and is very transparent. Moreover, she is very quick to admit that they still have a lot of work to accomplish as a company and they still experience rocky times. Also? This book is written for you and me - not leaders of major high profile companies. We can make a difference.

Cheryl begins our journey by pointing out that most people (including most leaders) expect leaders to be in the spotlight. Too many  leaders work for, live, crave, and love the spotlight. To them it means that they have "made it". Wrong! Servant leaders willingly step out of the spotlight and shift the light from themselves to their people. They focus on their people. They listen. They involve others in decisions and continually empower. They are humble and courageous. They aspire and serve over self interest. They help others pursue dreams. They serve others and bring superior results. So, move that spotlight. 

There are clear benefits to becoming a Dare To Serve Leader and you will want to dig in deep within this book to learn. They include "gold" that every leader wants.

  • People will tell you the truth and what you need to know.
  • Your bold vision is more likely to have followers.
  • Teams will perform without being reminded or pushed.
  • People perform at a superior level.
  • People are more likely to have your back and will even protect you from yourself.

A key to being a true servant leader is bringing the best out of your people. It's fun. It's challenging. You find gifts and skill gaps. You learn and respect different team talents. You grow people and the bottom line. You bring purpose and let people know that they their work has meaning. Getting to know what drives people and motivates them goes a long way towards success. Cheryl shares her "Journey to Personal Purpose". This is a plan to help people determine their purpose because no one  can do it for them. The keys to the plan include: 

  • What are an individuals life experiences?
  • Establish your personal values. Live them.
  • Strength identification. Grow them and use them to serve.
  • Personal purpose for leadership.
  • Asking "My purpose can serve the organization for ______"

After we live Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen's 6 year journey from  financial and franchise troubles to average restaurant sales increases up 25%, market share increases from 14 to 21 percent, and an impressive improvement of 40% profitability, we get to learn how to become a Dare To Serve leader . This is where the magic really happens because this is your chance to learn what is takes to be a servant leader and how you can make a real difference. 

What does it take to become a Dare To Serve Leader? Are you ready?
  • Choose to serve. Be a servant leader and avoid these traps - Power, achievement for yourself, too much personal ambition. Know any of these leaders stuck in the trap?  Don't be a self centered leader.
  • Be bold and brave. Have the courage to serve and be willing to accept failure. I love how Cheryl compares servant leadership to extreme sports. You need to "go big or go home". Stretch yourself and others. 
  • Have clarity of purpose. You need to find your purpose before you can help others do the same. Sit down and do it today. Examine your life. Choose your key 3 values. Know your gifts and use them. Write your purpose. Test your purpose and ask are you true to it?
  • Avoid the spotlight. Remember. Jump out of the spotlight and move it onto others. Do this while following these core beliefs: Practice the golden rule, have personal responsibility, and be humble every day.
  • Call to action.  As a leader you have influence and are a steward to others. Stand up with a call to action and find a way to spread the Dare To Serve word.
Perhaps your leadership style has become outdated. Maybe you are realizing that you are acting like a leader back in the 1980s or 1990s. New leaders need guidance and role models. We really are all leaders in some form or another and we need to be authentic - not a copy cat. Becoming a servant leader will transform your life and your career. Dare To Serve: How To Drive Superior Results By Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder really has influenced my leadership growth. I feel like I have a clearer plan to guide my walk down the path to success. I want to continually personally grow and really positively impact others. I am a servant leader and I Dare To Serve. How about you?

I sincerely encourage you to pick up Cheryl's book today to begin your journey in becoming  a servant leader. If you are interested,  you can learn more about the book “Dare to Serve” and download a free sample chapter  here Dare To Serve