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Lessons in Leadership: Lesson #1 | Flexibility

5 Ways You Can Embrace Flexibility and Become a Serving Leader

In a recent blog post titled, “Old School Leadership is Out,” author of Be DIFFERENT or Be Dead, Roy Osing, shares his views and advice on the evolving leadership and management issues of today’s workplace. According to Osing, today’s managers should focus more on providing guidance and support, and less on merely assigning tasks. There are clear differences between old and new-school leadership techniques, and Osing makes a powerful argument for why we should aim to embody the role he refers to as the, “serving leader.”

Old-school leadership, referred to by Osing as, “MBWA: Managing By Wandering Around,” is exactly what it sounds like.  Meandering through the workplace keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary was at one time an esteemed practice. However, this leadership technique fails to inspire the passion or drive required for successful, meaningful teamwork. Staying flexible is key to tuning into the needs of employees and fostering their development. That’s where new-school leadership comes in.

“New-school leadership can be summed up as LBSA: Leading By Serving Around.” According to Osing, there is a clear difference between managing and leading. While a manager’s primary focus is, “organizational performance,” the leader’s agenda is more flexible. Leaders, “…offer personal help, recognizing that if someone’s individual problems are solved, performance enhancement follows.”

Osing is not alone in his theory on the new role of management. The Wall Street Journal also has a lot to say about the subject. In their recent article, “What is the Difference Between Management and Leadership?” author Alan Murray states that, “In the new economy, where value comes increasingly from the knowledge of people, and where workers are no longer undifferentiated cogs in an industrial machine, management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define for them a purpose. On the flip side managers must organize workers, and above all remain flexible in their approach, not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.”

So begs the question—how can you stop wandering and start serving? The key to achieving this balance lies entirely in flexibility. Individuals make up teams, and they need to be acknowledged and treated as such. Here are five ways you can start effectively leading your organization right now.

1. Do your research. Determine what and who needs help on your team. Once you’ve identified where you’re needed, you can then begin serving accordingly.

2. Go at it alone… or as a group. Being a serving leader isn’t always a solo act that requires a deep understanding of what individuals need to thrive. For some, groups can be intimidating and they are more likely to open up to you about their needs when approached individually.  For others, knowing there is a team to support them makes them more comfortable. Start with a one-on-one conversation, and take it from there.

3. Talk less; listen more. Monologues from superiors don’t solve problems. Part of being a flexible leader means you need to sit back and listen. It is vital that you fully understand the needs of the individual in front of you. Don’t offer advice until it is clear you know how to best serve them.

4. Follow up. Once a problem is solved, check in to make sure it stays that way. It’s best to nip issues in the bud early on and prevent them from progressing.  

5. Continue to lead. Work to embody your inner serving leader in all aspects of your life. From taking the lead with your children or spouse to your friends and coworkers, the more you lead the more natural it will be. 

Serving leaders are the wave of the future. They are more concerned with the people that make up their organizations because they understand that satisfied employees who feel valued and heard create better products. As Osing reminds us, “If you take care of the person, performance will take care of itself.”

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