4 Values of Servant-Led Organizations


There is nothing wrong with creating greater shareholder value or making a profit in your company… …However, there is something wrong when a Fortune 500 company doesn’t consider that its primary mission should be to exist for the sake of others, and not just for the sake of others in their exclusive shareholder family, but for the sake of making this world to the least and the last a better place.”

— Dr. Tony Baron, The Art of Servant Leadership

On the Right Side of History by John C Bogle represents chapter six 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, Bogle provides us with a captivating overview of the Vanguard Group, a mutual fund organization that has, since its inception, used the principles and philosophy of Servant-Leadership to make it a leader in the mutual fund industry. Bogle argues that Vanguard’s principles of creating a corporate environment that encourages its staff to do the right things in the right way have placed them on the right side of history.

It’s fascinating to read the story of the Vanguard Group and how they have surpassed their competitors in the industry by fostering a single focus on serving their fund’s shareholders. creating and maintaining an attitude towards low costs, and utilizing conservative investment strategies and concepts. Operating under the Servant-Leadership philosophy, the Vanguard Group enjoys assets topping 400 billion, cash flow at 50 billion, and switching to a no-load distribution in 1977, making the Vanguard Group that segment’s largest unit.

How do they do it?

Bogle takes ideas from Greenleaf’s essay, Building a Model Institution that provided the wisdom and vision for what has manifested at the Vanguard Group. Here is a re-cap of each.

Distinguished Serving Institutions

Employees who accept the challenge of discipline to operate in a higher consciousness are lifted to a nobler stature and are more effective. They are likely to achieve greater with less discipline in the workplace.

An Understanding of Leadership and Followership

Everyone in any institution is part leader and part follower. It follows that those employees that are natural servant leaders are the ones that should be empowered to lead.

Organizational Structure

Organizations that place an importance on organizational structure and culture understand how power and authority are handled. In this way, a discipline towards helping employees accomplish their goals for themselves and others make for a successful organizational structure. The Vanguard Group places the most power and authority with the fund shareholders rather than the managers. In essence, the collective power rests in the hands of those Vanguard serves.

The Need for Trustees

The Vanguard Group understands the need for trustees. That is those persons in whom ultimate trust is placed. These persons are objective, unattached persons that stand apart from the organization offering a detachment commitment that insiders.

Not only are the above-mentioned characteristic vital to the success of the Vanguard Group, but so is foresight and caring. Foresight is crucial to leaders to navigate the unknown. Foresight is about operating with a sense of purpose and objective, moving toward and embracing the unknown and harnessing the talent to manage the process for reaching new goals. Finally, the third is to have people who care about the organization.

Bogle puts it this way, “the institution must be the object of intense human care and cultivation. Even when it errs and stumbles, it must be cared for, and the burden must be borne by all who work for it, all who own it, and all who are served by it, all who govern it.”

At the end of the day, “the Vanguard way” is about creating extra value for its investors and indeed, their peers recognize this value advantage. Others in the industry didn’t pay attention until 10 years after the Vanguard Group’s success was noticed. And, they are being copied, but not with much enthusiasm.


Servant-Leadership is on the right side of evolving corporate history and the policies and procedures, that is, the consciousness that Vanguard adopted a quarter-century ago makes them a valuable Servant-Led institution today. To learn more about the Vanguard Group, click here.


To Servant-Led Organizations,

Dr. Crystal


10 Core Competencies of Servant Leadership and Philanthropic Institutions


You cannot buy engagement, and you will pay for disengagement.”

Adele du Rand, Professional speaker

Servant-Leadership and Philanthropic Institutions by John C. Burkhardt and Larry C. Spears represent chapter five 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, Burkhardt and Spears discuss the ever growing and evolving field of philanthropy including the ever changing society in which these institutions seek to serve. Robert Greenleaf had some ideas about the roles of service and leadership within philanthropic institutions and he believed, as I do, that service and leadership and interdependent, symbiotic and connected.

They mention the characteristics of servant leadership; Listening, empathy, healing, persuasion, awareness, foresight, conceptualization, commitment to the growth of the people, stewardship, and building community with regard to and in alignment with philanthropic institutions. Here is a re-cap of each.


Philanthropic institutions must show the way forward and listen not only to themselves but to listen, and even amplify the voices of those they serve that go unheard.


Foundations and other grants-making organizations must be ever careful that within their role of judging grant proposals (most times way more than they can fund) that they don’t lose sight of the people who have a need and to maintain this empathetic connection between the people who have the influence and the people who are being served.


Healing in this context refers to the healing of one’s self first. Greenleaf challenged us to heal internally from the isms in the world (racism, sexism, etc.) and to provide access to opportunity, promote and engage in peace, and to build community. He said these efforts cannot happen if we have not addressed them both internally and externally. Indeed, philanthropic institutions have the responsibility in the ongoing press of reconciliation.


Foundations must rely on leadership that works by influencing people through moral power and not through coercion and positional authority.


Philanthropic institutions must rely more on the awareness of perception to a greater level than ever before. Greenleaf spoke about the leaders as the seeker and in the grants-making world, awareness is a more evolved way to work (and judge grant proposal) rather than to just rely on objectivity, detachment, and expert knowledge. Awareness is at the next level of consciousness than these.


For philanthropic institutions, foresight is the most important servant leadership characteristic to possess for just as the original donor employed foresight in leaving an endowment and/or money for the future of service, the institution must commit to resources now, not thinking about the present day but using foresight considering the future of its work and service.


Conceptualization is about grant-making institutions making meaning of its work and service to society. In this context vision and conceptualization are seen as a process in which the leaders and followers arrive at the decision together. Conceptualization should be seen as the way for the institution and not merely a skill of the leader.

Commitment to the Growth of the People

As philanthropic institutions shift their consciousness from seeing its philanthropic investments as commitments to the people, rather than the problem, they will perceive their work in a different way, a new conceptualization. And Greenleaf called this new way of seeing it as a “high calling.”


The role of philanthropies is to, as Peter Block said, “hold something in trust for another.” What this means is that wealthy individuals gave their wealth to trusted organizations to act responsibly in serving and healing the world. Stewardship must directly impact the decisions that institutions make as stewards of endowments. In other words, keep the original vision of the endowment while operating in today’s context of need, all for the people.

Building Community

Philanthropic institutions must work together in purpose and as clear vehicles of internal cohesion if they are to be of service. Greenleaf says it plainly, “Am I connected?” Modern philanthropic institutions must live and work in a holistic and integrated way so that that remain, “On the growing edge of the contemporary phase of history but still connected to the main body of people and events. This is what community building is all about, staying connected to the people.


At the end of the day, philanthropic institutions and organizations have the greatest challenge as they serve and heal the world. Their challenge is to set the intention (create a vision) for their communities that go far beyond their approach, creating access for people, and contact. It’s all about engagement. Burkhardt and Spears put it this way, “The sense of community envisioned by Greenleaf does not tolerate much self-interest, nor does it provide much in the way of shelter from real relationships, with real people in real situations.


To Engagement,

Dr. Crystal


Servant Leadership and Organizational Trust


                   “Organizations are no longer built on force,

                                              but on trust.”

                                                                ~Peter Drucker

Stephen Covey (Stephen R. Covey’s son) highlights the third wave of trust in his book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything as Organizational Trust. This wave of trust is all about establishing trust with the internal stakeholders of your organization.  Last week, we discussed the 4 Cores of Credibility and the 13 Behaviors.

The third wave of trust lays the foundation for your organization to create value, establish and maintain trust, increase speed of product or service delivery, lower organizational costs, increase the bottom line, and maximize influence- yours and your organization. The core concept of this wave of trust is considered the Principle of Alignment.

The chapter begins by asking two main questions and gives an illustration of the difference between low-trust and high-trust organizations. The two questions help to gauge how you might apply the tools above to your organization. The two questions are;

  • How would you describe a low-trust organization?
  • How would you describe a high-trust organization?

The lists consist of the answers Covey’s workshop participants provided for both questions. See if you can find your organization in one of these two lists.

Low-Trust Organizations

  • People manipulate or distort facts
  • People withhold and hoard information
  • Getting the credit is very important
  • People spin the truth to their advantage
  • New ideas are openly resisted and stifled
  • Mistakes are covered up or covered over
  • Most people are involved in the blame game, bad-mouthing others
  • There is an abundance of Watercooler talk
  • There are numerous “meetings after meetings.”
  • There are many “Undiscussables.”
  • People tend to overpromise and under deliver
  • The energy and consciousness are extremely low
  • There are a lot of expectations, for which people try to make excuses
  • People pretend bad things aren’t happening or are in denial
  • People often feel unproductive tension- sometimes even fear

Covey’s participants that discussed high-trust organizations said they typically see different behaviors such as:

High-Trust Organizations

  • Information is shared openly
  • Mistakes are tolerated and encouraged as a way of learning
  • The culture is innovative and creative
  • People are loyal to those who are absent
  • People talk straight and confront real issues
  • There is real communication and authentic collaboration
  • People share credit abundantly
  • There are few “meetings after meetings.”
  • Transparency is a practical value
  • People are candid and authentic
  • There is a high degree of accountability
  • There exists palpable vitality and energy- a consciousness of positive momentum (Adapted from Covey, pg. 237).

Covey presents four ideas to increase the Principle of Alignment within your organization. Servant Leaders know that integrity, intent, capabilities, and results will yield long-lasting success within the organization. The four cores, applied organizationally, can improve trust. For example;

Organizational Integrity

Improve your organization’s mission or values statement. Create a culture of keeping commitments-especially in small things. Remember, they are watching how you keep your commitments.

Organizational Intent

Make sure that your mission and values are reflected in the motive and principles that build trust. Set an example and demonstrate care and concern for everyone. Use systems that focus on benefitting everyone like stewardship accountability, rewarding cooperation, and building trust on a daily basis.

Organizational Capabilities

Put systems in place that attract and retain the talent needed to be competitive in today’s global market. Provide on-going professional development, mentoring, and training to promote satisfaction that comes from growth and expansion for the stakeholders. Information and decision-making systems should include everyone to meet organizational goals and customer needs.

Organizational Results

Create a shared vision for everyone to embrace. Get and keep everyone on the same page. Provide accountability systems for internal stakeholders to get results on a consistent basis. Use balanced scorecards or other systems that meet the needs of the stakeholders, and not just the bosses.

Servant Leaders understand that organizations are severely taxed when low-trust is rampant. And, on the other hand, organizations receive dividends when there is high-trust within the organization. The seven taxes for low-trust organizations, along with the seven dividends for high-trust organizations are highlighted below.

The 7 Low-Trust Organizational Taxes

  • Redundancy
  • Bureaucracy
  • Politics
  • Disengagement
  • Turnover
  • Churn (turnover other than employees, like customers, suppliers, distributors, investors, etc.)
  • Fraud

The 7 High-Trust Organizational Dividends

  • Value
  • Accelerated Growth
  • Enhanced Innovation
  • Improved Collaboration
  • Stronger Partnering
  • Better Execution
  • Heightened Loyalty

I love how Covey brings this chapter to an end by discussing these same core concepts as it relates to family. Everything in this chapter applies just as powerfully to the family as it does to any other organization. For instance, does your family have integrity? Are values and guidelines clear? Does our family have good intent? Are we kind and caring to one another? What are our family’s capabilities? Is it safe to learn from mistakes? And finally, what results does our family produce? Are systems and processes in place to create joy and share are great accomplishments?

Indeed, as Servant Leaders in our homes and our workplace modeling the 4 Cores and 13 behaviors, we create an alignment that supports our structure and values. And in doing so, Servant Leaders positively affect everything else in our families as well as in our organizations.

To Organizational Trust,

Dr. Crystal

The FISH! Philosophy and Organizational Culture

Do you know about the FISH! Philosophy? FISH! Philosophy is a fun and forward thinking system that provides tools and language to create an organizational culture booming with inspiration, fun, creativity, and innovation. It is a consciousness that you and your co-workers adopt –over time- to create a workplace culture that is fun, productive, and produces a vibrant culture each time it is embraced. The four tenants of the FISH Philosophy are simple, yet powerful; Be Present, Make Their Day, Play, Choose Your Attitude.

How do I know about the FISH! Philosophy? Well, many years ago, I worked at a university in the Midwest that bought the entire training package to the campus, trained me as a trainer, and we implemented the program campus-wide. Now, it was a slow process and not everyone embraced the concepts at first, but over the course of five years and a little dedication, our department literally changed the way it served students and encouraged the naysayers to join in.

The FISH! Philosophy aligns with the theory of servant leadership in that;

  • It is an invitation that enables co-workers to care about each other and their responsibilities.
  • It is committed to creating a culture of trust, accountability, fun, and innovation,
  • It encourages the ability to awaken the consciousness of self-trust, creative, and fun spirit within each of us, and
  • It allows co-workers to empower self and those they serve to the idea of selfless service (a tenet of servant leadership).

Our department took the FISH! Philosophy to heart. We ordered the stuffed toy fish, we created system and processes that included the philosophy into our daily routine and work, and we were encouraged by the evaluations from our students suggesting that our office was the best place on campus to seek help and resources. Indeed, the FISH! Philosophy was infectious and contagious. We even received a visit by the Dean of the campus! He never visited out little shabby building located on the outskirts of campus! Other staff members and administrators across campus commented on how our department seemed to gel together so effortlessly and had fun at work! We knew it. We felt it. And so did they.

One of the activities that proved useful for us was the FISH Bowl and FISH of the Month. So, each month, at the beginning of the month, our administrative assistant would print out the FISH Nominations. Then, all month long, co-workers would grab a FISH nomination, write their name on it, describe the act that another co-worker did that met the four tenants of the philosophy, sign it (signing was optional), and place it in the Fish Bowl. At each end of month staff meeting, the FISH Nominations would be tallied, and a new FISH of the Month would be named. The winner enjoyed a variety of gifts, love, a certificate, and special attention – all month long.

This practice became so engaging that co-workers began looking for ways to create memories for their co-workers. Indeed, it was selfless service at its best. At the end of each monthly staff meeting, we would leave time for colleagues to read all of their FISH nominations from the month. What was so empowering is that one would read a FISH Nomination of something that they had done for a co-worker that they had forgotten they had done. Our internalization of the FISH Philosophy involved valuing others and working to make their day provided a constant flow of positive energy.

When I and others in our department left that university for our next adventures in life, we each took a part of the life energy of the department with us. The ones of us who were left continued on with the FISH! Philosophy. We had created real meaning for our department and for the students we served. And how did we create that meaning? We created ways to make their day, we found ways to play, and we stayed focused while being present, and each day we decided to choose our attitude. I miss the organizational culture we created there. I try to re-create it in my personal life each day.

To Fishing,

Dr. Crystal

Crystal J Davis is a servant leader, blogger, and researcher. She holds a Doctorate in Management specializing in Organizational Leadership. Dr. Davis is passionately engaged in Servant Leadership and selfless service to the nonprofit and public sectors having served both large and small organizations throughout her career and consulting business. Follow Crystal @DrDavis2126 (Twitter) and, Lead.From.Within. (Facebook).

© Copyright 2015 ~Dr. Crystal J. Davis. All Rights Reserved.