Wanted: Serving Leaders in Government

This month’s entry is a guest post written by Rick Newton. He co-founded the Center for Serving Leadership with John Stahl-Wert in 2015 because of their shared vision and passion of equipping leaders to awaken, align, and achieve Great Purpose.

Here in the United States, we have just come through a historic election – unlike one that anyone has ever seen. Don’t worry – I am not going to get into political opinion, but I do want to get into politics – and talk about how Serving Leaders are needed in every facet of society, especially Government.

There are many problems with our society, and I trace all of them back to leadership – or to be more precise, a lack of serving leadership. Too often, leaders in government are self-centered, egotistic, and more concerned about staying in power than serving the people they represent.

US Capitol building

When self-centered leadership is in place, we see the results: name-calling, blame-shifting, miscommunication, no communication, undermining, dysfunction, and an inability and unwillingness to rise above differences to serve the common good.

Common Leadership Challenge #2: Aligning What We Say With What We Do

In my last post, I wrote on the leadership challenge of turning vision into reality, or as some would say, bridging the strategy-execution gap. In this entry, I want to share briefly on how leaders can get what they say to line up with what they do. In other words, as leaders, how can we fix our misalignments so that everything we’re saying and doing is moving in the same direction?

Lily pad drops

True story: Mr. T.S. Wong, founder of one of the largest toy manufacturers in the world, Jetta, made a decision 38 years ago that he would focus his leadership efforts on aligning what his company said with what they did. None of his contemporaries in the People’s Republic of China in 1977 were thinking this way. “If they promised it,” Mr. Wong said, “They would do it.” He was determined that his company would not represent what they weren’t. If they said it, they would be it.

Common Leadership Challenge #1: Turning Vision into Reality

As leaders, we each bring value to the world in our own distinct way. The uniqueness of the start of our leadership journey is extraordinary as we are born into the world and then move out to engage it, seeking to have impact, hoping to make friends, longing to achieve results, and aspiring to make a difference.

Chicago Joe

However, we can find profound similarities among us all in our calling to serve. Several fundamental challenges are consistent across our individual leadership journeys. One of these common leadership challenges is learning how to translate vision into reality. Or, as we more usually say it: How can we bridge our strategy-execution gap?

Why Values Matter in the Workplace

Values are the foundation of an organization’s culture. Where Great Purpose addresses why we work, values guide how we work. This guidance will be intentional, or it will be unintentional, because every organization has values. The question is: “Will we choose the values that will guide us, or will we allow ourselves to be pushed around by the riptides of opportunity and crisis?”


Identify and Define Your Values

The enterprise that says – “We don’t waste our time on things like values. We’ve got a business to run!” – is, in reality, showing their underlying values. Examine the pattern of decisions and you’ll know what their “values statement” would say.

The business that says it values integrity, but rewards the salesperson bringing in the most business while cutting ethical corners, is displaying its true values. The stated values are not real, of course, but the company still has values. By their fruit, you will know!

Building on Strength: Why Making Others Stronger Matters in the Workplace

At the heart of serving leadership is a point of view about the human person, namely, that people are your organization’s greatest treasure. This point of view requires a change in the minds and hearts of leaders who are accustomed to thinking of their people as tools; even our accounting system labels people a “liability” on the balance sheet! The people who work for us are an asset, not a liability, and that is to say the very least.

purple flower

Explore Each Person’s Strengths
In an earlier post, we emphasized the importance of getting to know each of your team members so that you can better serve them. One of the most important areas of knowledge about a person is knowledge about that person’s strengths. Strengths are those tasks that the person performs well and, importantly, loves doing. Both criteria—capability and passion—must be present to call something a strength.

The Heart of Life-and-Death Leadership

“We lead men into harm’s way. We lead, they follow, and where we’re taking them is potentially to their death.”

I’ll never forget those straightforward, weighty words spoken to me many years ago by my late friend and mentor, Brigadier General John Hirt.

national guard

John and I were lying on our backs in sleeping bags in the Masai Mara region of Kenya. The Milky Way was more luminous above our heads than I had ever seen it. We were talking about his years of military service and what leadership looks like in times of war. The gravity of that conversation opened a hollow place in my chest, and some questions have lived there ever since.

“What kind of a leader will people follow toward harm? What leadership qualities will cause men and women to run into the teeth of danger, rather than shoot the leader in the back and flee (which, we all know happens)?

Merry Christmas!

Throughout the course of the year, I have the privilege of working with extraordinary men and women who are committed to serve others and to serve a calling greater than themselves. Such men and women – leaders who chose to serve, or “serving leaders” – fashion organizations that produce extraordinary good in the world. They do so because the decision to place themselves into service frees them to put people first, principles first, excellence first, customers first.

Christmas Gifts

When we place self at the service of others, we are freed of a thousand daily distractions created by ego, fear, greed, and insecurity.

When we place self at the service of a great calling, we are empowered to focus time and energy toward things that make a true difference for the world.

Raise Vision High and Run with Great Purpose

A common myth about leadership is that a leader is responsible to “establish a compelling vision.” This is just not true. Many leaders step into an organization that already has a great vision, and they should not try to prove that they are a leader by cooking up some new vision.

Raise High the Vision

It is the leader’s job to make sure everyone understands why the business exists. Leaders aren’t required to come up with a great vision, but they are required to serve a great vision. Leaders who do not raise high a great purpose are throttling the contributions of the people who work for them. Human beings desire purpose. An organization’s vision must provide a compelling and noble reason for employees to care.


Leaders must raise vision high enough for everyone to have a direct sight line to it. Obviously, this demands that leaders communicate what the vision is—which we call Great Purpose. However, people respond to leaders’ actions more than to their words. Leaders must demonstrate the Great Purpose. This work not only includes communicating the vision to new employees, but also daily actions needed to reinforce the importance of the vision.

Great organizations are successful at getting their people to own the vision. As this happens, employees become more engaged and committed to doing their part to serve the Great Purpose.

Join Me at the Summit

When I first read Robert Greenleaf’s The Servant As Leader in the 1970s, I did not know I would dedicate much of my life to helping leaders put actionable steps to some of the author’s groundbreaking ideas.

Today, we’re seeing a movement towards servant leadership. From manufacturing industries to fast food franchises, organizations are leaving autocratic, hierarchic leadership models for practices that “Upend the Pyramid,” value people, serve customers, and paradoxically increase productivity and profitability.

This movement is served by a growing number of contemporary leaders, a number of whom I have the honor of joining in a special, online event entitled the Servant Leadership Summit. It takes place on Monday, November 9th, and you’re invited to participate in this exclusive, free webinar.


Hosted by Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence, and Karin Hurt of Let’s Grow Leaders, the online Summit will pair two thought leaders for 30-minute conversations on various aspects of servant leadership in action.

In addition to myself, participants include:

  • Ken Blanchard, bestselling author of The New One Minute Manager and servant leadership guru.
  • Mark Miller, bestselling author of 5 books including Chess Not Checkers, and Chick-fil-A Vice President for Leadership Development.
  • Cheryl Bachelder, CEO Popeye’s® and author of Dare to Serve.
  • Ken Jennings, bestselling co-author of The Serving Leaderand leadership consultant.
  • Pat M. Falotico, CEO of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.
  • Matt Tenney, author of Serve to Be Great, social entrepreneur, and keynote speaker.

During the online Summit, questions from participants will be taken, enabling us all to learn together. The speakers will discuss ways leaders can serve effectually, and how it will make a difference in your organizations and lives.

I encourage you to register today by clicking here and to share this blog post with your friends on social media.

See you at the Summit!

John Stahl-Wert is co-author of the best-selling book “The Serving Leader.” He serves as President of Newton Institute and Director of its Center for Serving Leadership. Learn more at www.centerforservingleadership.com.

How to Close the Gap Between Knowing and Doing

Stanford professor of organizational behavior, Robert Sutton, says, “The gap between knowing and doing is larger than the gap between ignorance and knowledge.” I can’t verify Sutton’s observation empirically, but experience seems to bear this out. We are prone to cram our minds full of new things to know, yet fail to put into practice those few important things we need to do.


Let’s call this problem of knowing but not doing the “application gap.” Every one of us experiences this challenge, especially in our information-driven work world. While it’s true that there’s an ongoing need to learn and know more – you’ve heard the lament, “if I had only known!” – implementing what is already clear is our greater need.