“Any time people want to focus on my work, servant-leadership, or other values as a way to get better results it’s critical to start from the right place. You sincerely have to start with what you yourself are wanting to become, the being and becoming of you.” ~James Autry
Love and Work by James Autry represents chapter four of the book we are using as a guide, Practicing Servant-Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery, and Forgiveness by Larry C. Spears and Michelle Lawrence.
In this chapter, we get a glimpse into James Autry’s perspective on Servant Leadership, love, and work through an interview he had with then president and CEO of The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership Larry Spears and John Noble, the then director of the Greenleaf Centre-United Kingdom.
After 28 years in the management field, Autry provides us with real insight into what he’s learned about what makes a servant leader and what makes a great workplace. The interview included many questions. I chose three that resonated with me and hopefully they will resonate with you. Here is a re-cap of each.
What are the markers in your life, the people, and events that have helped shape your thinking?
Autry believes that everything is connected and interrelated. That is every experience, and every relationship is connected and they all point in the same direction. He said that he learned later in his business career that the most effective managers were those who were thought of as the weakest by higher management. He says he tried to manage from the old hierarchal attitudes and it just didn’t work for him.
The beginning of his transformation happened when he heard a speech by Bob Burnett, the CEO of the Meredith Corporation. Burnett claimed that “the most important thing is love,” and this statement forever changed Autry’s perspective of leadership in the corporate world. Indeed, he had never heard of managers and CEOs using the word lovein the business world. So, Autry let go of his old ways of managing and over time saw improvement. Autry argues that when he shifted his consciousness and started supporting people and building community within the workplace, the company went from 160 million in revenues to 500 million!
What does servant-leadership mean to you?
Autry doesn’t hardly ever use the term servant leadership but rather he pairs it with terms like being useful and being a resource. He believes that a leader’s responsibility is to provide the resources necessary for the team to accomplish their objectives and he understands that the principal resource of the people is you, the leader. The leader must serve the people. He says there are 5 precepts that he lives by; project authenticity and vulnerability, be present, be accepting, and see your role as being useful, as being the servant.
If every CEO, manager, and employees saw themselves as caring and serving to one another, the corporate world would be different and the profit we so want to make would show up bottom line. Every.Single.Time.
What is your sense of how a leader gets better at developing a servant’s heart, and how to view oneself as a servant to others?
This is the most powerful question asked. Autry’s response was, “To me, the road to servanthood has to be almost by definition, a road away from ego. We could shift this over to Buddhism and say path of heart– the path of heart, the move to a servant’s heart is a move away from ego. I think it has to be done in the context of one’s own spiritual development, spiritual growth, and by reading other spiritual disciplines, and picking people you think are spiritual heroes, those who emulate how you would like to be and following these models, letting them be mentors.”
One such person for me, one that I see as a mentor, although I have never met him, is David Berry. I am not exactly sure when I started reading David’s blog, but his message instantly struck me as real and authentic, caring and compassionate, spiritual and in-depth. He’s a great writer and his message is substantive. You never leave his blog post without a call to action for your own life. Whether that is in your personal life or your professional life as a leader, David always inspires and encourages us to greater and better heights within ourselves. I think he is a servant leader.
His blog this week, The Story of Self perfectly aligns with our discussion here. You should read it and think about your own values, strengths, limitations, and purpose. And then write them down. I did. It’s empowering. Servant Leaders understand that this self-work is critical and worth every ounce of effort.
To Love and Work,