Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Servant Leaders in Action -- Inspirations from the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership 2013 International Conference

by Sonya Mau, MCLP Executive Director

Phani and I were honored to be asked to speak about MCLP at the 23rd Annual International Conference for the Center for Servant Leadership on June 14, 2013. Our key objective was to inspire others to consider such a program for their community.

Little did we know how much we would be inspired by those we met during the conference, all of whom shared our passion for developing proactive servant leaders for stronger communities. Following are some highlights from our experience.

We met the famous business consultant Peter Block, whose latest book is about community. At this conference, he opened a general session titled: Community: The Structure of Belonging and talked about what it takes to build a strong, vibrant community. He compared it to “what it takes to build a strong business.” There are differences. His many thought-provoking and humorous observations inspired both mind and spirit.

His co-presenter was Mike Mathers, pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. Mike transformed the community he served by focusing on the talents of the poor who came to the church food pantry, rather than their financial state. By doing so, he gave them dignity, hope and inspiration. Individuals discovered their value and shared their talents with others…resulting in a stronger and richer neighborhood. “The only difference between the poor and us is they have less money.” Mike’s leadership left the community he served better off in all ways.

We met Dave Guerra who spoke on “Servant Leadership for Business: a Turning Point.” Dave’s excitement about how servant leadership is an unmistakable competitive advantage was inspiring. He is the author of “Superperformance, the Super Performing CEO, and Super Projects.” He consults on the integration of servant leadership and systems thinking principles into a corporation’s success plan.

“Servant Leadership in Hard Times” was a session by two servant leaders who were asked to organize the shut-down of a manufacturing plant in Dayton, Ohio in 24 months. Meanwhile, they had to continue making quality parts throughout the entire 24 months. Tom Green and Mary Miller shared the amazing story of how they actually accomplished their business mission, while at the same time leaving the 1,550 people better off, better positioned to find new jobs, with new degrees, and new energy. They credit the servant leadership principles they followed and a lot of hard work for their success.

Howard Behar, author of “It’s Not about the Coffee,” served as President of Starbucks, North America and was the founding President of Starbucks International. His inspirational speech was about the servant leadership spirit, which starts from the very top and travels through to those who serve the Starbuck clients. It’s the “people-helping-people spirit” that’s kept Starbucks strong and vital. 

We also learned about the increased acceptance of the philosophy of servant leadership in education and business: MBA programs, such as the “Ken Blanchard Executive MBA”program, include it. Stephen Covey adopted servant leadership philosophies into his training modules. A Servant Leadership Institute in San Diego was founded by a CEO who adopted the servant leadership philosophy in his business with such great results that he started the Institute to share this philosophy with others.

The concept of servant-leadership described in the seminal pamphlet “Servant as Leader” by Robert Greenleaf in 1970 has grown organically for more than four decades. It was exciting to talk with like-minded people who shared our passion for this philosophy. We could tell that we are meeting the needs of the future with our simple and hard-won program. The future will be amazing for the Multicultural Leadership Program (MCLP) and our community.