I know I have written a lot about leadership this year. Whether in my posts or in my blogs. Truth is, this year God is teaching me a lot about leadership. Like our friend K!mera sung, God is up to something. But I think I have fallen in his plot this time. I am not going to sleep on the jobboo. I am putting myself out here to learn and share as much as I possibly can.
I was enjoying my growth as I journey through Harvest Institute. Feeling the one that is learning quite a bit. It’s a shame to admit that at some point I was getting a little ahead of myself. If there is such a thing as being overconfident, I was slowly getting in that box. Huh, then at work, my boss gave me the wonderful news. I and my colleagues had been enrolled in a short (6 weeks) course in leadership. The Course was a result of a workplace environment survey that had been conducted two years back where the staff was asked to give suggestions on different pieces of training they would like to be taken through. Our organization contracted Solutions Africa to take us through The Journey to Servant Leadership.
On 6th May 2018, we began our training. It was unlike any other training we had ever done at work. It started with a self-awareness test for all of us. Solutions Africa uses the Insights Discovery test that brings out stuff (the good colorful stuff and big glaring bad stuff) using four-color energies; Fiery Red, Sunshine Yellow, Nurturing Green and Cool Blue. These are quite similar to the temperaments – Choleric, Melancholic, Sanguine and Phlegmatic. But the Insights Test is more comprehensive as it shows strengths and weaknesses in the different attributes such as teamwork, communication style, management style, motivation. In my temperament tests, I usually come out as Mel-Phleg.
The Colour Energy Test which revealed that I am both a Fiery Red and Cool Blue (Directing Reformer on the Wheel), made me learn so much about myself. It brought to light some of my blind spots like the fact that my being a natural critic (even of myself) makes it difficult for me to demonstrate an appreciation of positive attributes or contributions of people around me. Why I feel offended by people when they suggest things that I had already planned to do. Or why I can appear to be present for a meeting, or presentation but when I have already switched off mentally. It was an introspective journey that was at first difficult to take in because of the glaring shortcomings that my preset persona couldn’t deal with. But as we carried on with the lessons that followed about the Servant Leadership model of leadership, I understood why Self Awareness is key if we want to grow. John Maxwell explains this well under The Law of Awareness which states that To Grow yourself, you must know yourself, (15 Invaluable Laws of Growth). Imagine having a leader who is not aware that the way he communicates belittles his followers who invariably contribute to his promotion to the next level in his journey. There’s something interesting in leadership, it is like people see the ‘bu’ blind spots even before we do. So, it is better to embrace self-awareness than to blindly live as if those things don’t exist. Believe me, as you grow higher they will surely manifest, especially in the high-pressure moments.
Anyway, let me tell you more about this Servant Leadership Model. Servant Leadership is defined as the unshakeable desire to serve others. Solutions Africa took us through nine behaviors of Servant Leadership. And this is when I realized that “I don’t get it… yet.” Below I share briefly on each of the nine.
- Serve first – Great leaders think others first by adding value, demonstrating respect for others, expressing gratitude while putting the focus off themselves. Sounds easy, right? Here’s the catch, if you don’t serve the people who you lead, do not expect them to look after your customers well. I remember being frustrated about the lack of customer care exhibited by many companies/businesses here in Uganda. Could it be that the people left to take care of the customers are already hurt? It is a monkey see, monkey does principle.
- Build trust – Trust is the foundation of any relationship. Teamwork begins by building trust and the best way to do this as a leader is to overcome my need for invulnerability. We raised in a culture that pushes us to hide our weaknesses and display only the good stuff. On this journey, I was challenged to suppress my egos, embody the values I am pushing the people I lead to living out, show loyalty and extend trust.
Release yourself from the pressure of thinking you must know it all. Sometimes, it is okay not to know.
- Live your values – People do what people see. As a leader, I get the level of performance I demonstrate to my team. Most people are visual learners when as a leader you model the values you expect your team to uphold, they will indeed come alive. I learned that I must work on myself before I work on others. I had to revisit my values in my Purpose, Values, Strategy and Board map and rate myself. I still have some work to do but at least I am on the journey.
- Listen to Understand – This one was/is still something I am learning. I am usually fast at drawing conclusions before the person finishes to say all they want to put across. Here we were encouraged to practice the listening LADDER. It is now an aid for my one on one conversations.
- Think about your thinking. – Engage in positive self-talk. Journal your successes, Feed your mind with good and positive nourishment.
If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, either way, you are right. – Henry Ford.
- Add Value to others: Are the people better off because of your leadership?
- Demonstrate Courage: Servant Leadership is a balance between care and candor. Sometimes we care too much that we fear to make the tough calls. Sometimes we are too tough to care. But servant leadership requires that we balance with everyone we lead. At Harvest Institute this is similar to the Invitation and Challenge model. As a leader, you need to be open enough to invite people into your space but at the same time courageous to challenge them to grow.
- Increase your influence – Servant leaders lead by examples. They are open with no hidden agenda. They touch the heart before they ask for a hand.
Work yourself out of your job.
- Live your transformation. This is about staying consistent in all the other behaviors. Don’t count on motivation, count on discipline. Don’t ask for what you need, give what you have. Get an accountability partner or find a coach. Invest in getting better, take time to reflect on your journey every day.
So my dear friends, at the end of the 6 weeks, I felt very inadequate in this thing called leadership. But I am glad that I started the journey anyway. For the best part, I learned a great lesson of humility. Many of us instead of LEAD-ing we make ourselves the DEAL. As a Christian, since we are being transformed to be like Jesus, our higher call is to serve and not make ourselves the DEAL.
Now I urge you to join me and my colleagues. Together, let us make Uganda, a country we all desire to live in by Leading the way Jesus taught us how.
Take time to reflect on your journey every day.