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Cheryl Shares Three New Lessons

I am excited to be back in the blogosphere talking to you about leadership. The second edition of Dare to Serve hits the market in just a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait for you to see the new chapters. You can jump on Amazon today and pre-order your copy by clicking here.

Many of you have asked me what I’ve been up to since the sale of Popeyes—so I thought I would share with you three lessons I’ve been thinking about lately. Perhaps they can be provocative to you in your leadership journey.

The first lesson to share is about women in leadership. Last year I had the privilege of participating in a study of female CEOs, led by Korn Ferry and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. This is the first in-depth study of women in this role, and the findings are fascinating. The thing I found most intriguing was this: women CEOs were essentially the same as the ideal CEO norm on 16 of 20 traits. But we were unique on four. Let me share with you two of those differences.

The female CEOs’ score was significantly lower on confidence—and significantly higher on humility. The researchers say this: “These two traits are intertwined. High humility scores indicate a lack of self-absorption and more importantly, an expressed appreciation of others. Lower confidence scores do not mean women lack confidence, instead, these women are very willing to give credit to people and situations that contributed to their success. This combination of traits would suggest a leader who concedes that she cannot single-handedly bend the future to her will. This, frankly, might be more attuned to the reality of running today’s large enterprises.”

Lesson I:  Women are changing the norm of leadership behavior for the better. Less self-interest, more focus on others. Many men prefer to lead this way, too. Let’s make this a new norm!

The second lesson I’d like to share comes from pure observation—no research. Labels are the new norm in our culture. You have to know your generation label—millennial, boomer, or igen? You have to declare your political label—democrat, republican, libertarian. You have to talk about your IQ, EQ, and smee-Q. You need to take an Enneagram test—are you 1 or 6, 2 or 4? You must decide if you are uber-rich, upper-class, middle-class, or economically challenged. The list goes on and on.

I understand that labels are shortcuts—they allow us to process a lot of information quickly. But if you are a leader, I challenge you to be careful with this new label-loving environment. Because when it comes to human beings, labels are often misguided, misleading, or just plain wrong.

In leadership, we give people dignity by spending enough time with them to actually know them well. Don’t quickly put them in a category. Let them share their values, experiences, and strengths over time, so that you can help them find their best role and way to contribution to the team.

Lesson II:  Labels are limiting. Dignity is unlimiting. Lead people to the best version of themselves.

The third lesson remains one of the most misunderstood aspects of servant leadership: serving performs. I must admit this frustrates me. On the one hand, in the last few years there has been an explosion of servant leadership dialog. There are national conferences. Facebook groups. And a bunch of new books. Servant leadership is fast becoming the leadership approach of choice for the next generation—and that is exciting. But on the other hand, the focus of the conversation is almost exclusively on the topic of caring for the people—and little focus on delivering results. It’s time to start making this an “and” statement.  Caring AND results are required in servant leadership.

Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review published a compelling article on corporate culture. It turns out 87% of companies say their culture is results oriented—this is the primary culture and mindset of American leaders. Get results. Only 13% of companies say their culture is caring, even though it is the next highest culture type. The research concludes that the ideal culture is a combination of the two—results and caring.

Let’s test this notion with our own life experiences. Have you ever worked for an organization that was not performing well? Missing sales goals, cutting costs, scrambling to find cheap/fast options, eliminating jobs, canceling training. The list goes on. Do you remember this workplace as a great place to thrive and grow? I doubt it.

If we want to be leaders who serve well, we must care and perform. This means our brains and hearts must be engaged in finding the ideas that grow sales and create opportunities for the people. That is the environment where there is room for coaching, developing, promoting, and celebrating. That is a workplace where people thrive and grow.

Lesson III: Caring and results are both required in servant leadership. Serving performs.

I hope you will consider joining the upcoming Online Master Class—a five week course to explore your own transformation to Dare to Serve leadership. Sign up on cherylbachelder.com to be one of the first to know when it’s available.

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