On servant leadership

  • Small businesses use it, much to their advantage. Large businesses cannot adapt to it, much to their disadvantage.
  • ‘The old way has worked for years, why change just for the sake of change?’
  • ‘Never mind what I do. Just do as I say, not as I do!’


Servant leadership has been around for eons. Proponents of the practice trace it back to the time of Christ where he would actually wash the feet of his followers as their servant. I can’t imagine any of our country’s leaders or the movers/shakers doing such a thing. Wait! Wait a minute! Yes, I can imagine Warren Buffett doing such a thing if only because everyone else was not doing it. That, combined with his age, allows him to get away with just about anything. Could you honestly see Trump doing something like that?

I had touched on variations of the servant-style of leadership owning my own business for 40 years, keeping things that worked and tossing out what didn’t. My dad wanted me to use his autocratic style where you’re the boss and everyone should be beholding to you for their employment, but that style just wouldn’t jive with me. But my style served me well when I partnered with a parish in Chicago mentoring kids from their neighborhood. Gang life and drugs were staring these young men in the face on a daily basis. Not only was I asked to teach them a trade, but I would act as a ‘father’ figure in addition to mentoring. And boy, did we have a good time. I think that the fact that I had had my own run-ins with the law when I was younger helped cement the relationship I had with these guys. You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. But every one of them did try and when they figured out that wasn’t going to work, they tended to take care of business.

When the program started, there had to be 300 businesses on board. They would come in with money and talent and their own ‘brand’ of rules and, one by one, they would all fall on their face. They were all used to the autocratic way of doing business and these kids [16, 18, 20 years of age] wouldn’t play that way. Most of them didn’t trust those with authority and they certainly were not going to be part of any ‘categorical imperative’ work program. A year and a half into the project, the 300 had been whittled down to 10. The kids had to be heart-broken when they saw how many people gave up on them; so much for giving back to the community. I didn’t have the benefit of a business-school education, but I can so of figure out what works, what doesn’t and why. Like Geo. Bush used to say: you don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to figure that one out.

Now, they give it a fancy name, Servant Leadership, but back when my grandparents had their own business it was just good old-fashioned business sense: someone had a problem, you listened. If you could figure out a solution together, you had loyalty for life; persuade rather than dictate; use empathy rather than sympathy; instill in your workers your foresight combined with their concept and then turn ‘em loose. Those little tid-bits will separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s up to them to follow you and if they do then they will become like their leader and the cycle will continue which in the end will be a plus for your business, big or small. The same old same old doesn’t work anymore. And don’t ever be afraid of doing the sh·· work, it’s good for business. At least, that’s the way I see it. MLProko (2011) more at www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm  Comments (3)  
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On Stress

(How to Get It & How to Get Rid of It)

There are some who never get it. There are those who are immune to it. There are those who cause it in others. And there are those who die as a result of it. STRESS. Let’s see if we can figure this thing out and then let’s see if we can toss this demon aside.

Your baptism into stress probably started when you were a youngster. You were asked to do this and asked to do that and then you had to help your brother out or your sister, let’s not forget the aunts and uncles, etc. The thought of saying ‘no’ was completely foreign to you. You were convinced that everything had to be answered in the affirmative. And then, you start carrying around all this weight on your shoulders and, pretty soon, you can’t breathe. Then, it occurs to you that I would have been better off if I’d just learn to say ‘NO’.

Tragically, it doesn’t stop there. What you grow up with you take with you when you enter the real world. In business. In relationships. Wherever you go, there you are. Business, especially business, can spot a weak fish even before he/she has the job. Then, they start piling all this extra work on your shoulders and, pretty soon, you can’t breathe again. This was the job that I wanted. Why is this happening to me over and over again? It’s always easier to change circumstances than it is to change your personality. Different job. Same guy/gal. Same result. Simple enough.

In relationships, same thing. There’s always going to be one that takes on more responsibility than the others. Most of the time, it’s going to be the mothers. Sometimes, it’s the dads. Either or both will try to pass some of their own inability to say ‘no’ onto their kids. If either or both start to take your measurements for a ‘hair shirt’, from that point forward you can look forward to shouldering the weight for the entire family. Guilt plays a big part in all of this, but hush up now, we don’t talk about guilt either.

So, what’s the answer and how do we get off of this merry-go-round. Simple. And not so simple. You’re going to cause some arguments, maybe even bruise a few egos but the first thing that you have to do is learn how to say ‘no’. If someone else said ‘yes’, that has nothing to do with you. If you’re not there to bail them out, next time they will think twice about saying ‘yes’. If you want to help then by all means help but not because you were goaded into it. Continue to say ‘yes’ will only get you closer to that dirt nap that comes soon enough. Learning how to say ‘no’ will actually create more sunrises on your horizon. As it is, we only average about 25,000; if you can add to that then more power to you.

Next, stand in front of the mirror and take a good look at yourself. See anybody there with you? Nope. Just you. You are responsible for just you. No one else. The others? They, too, are responsible for themselves. Period. That is not to say that you are turning your back on everyone that you love and care about, but what your doing is teaching them to stand up by themselves. Kids that don’t learn to stand up by themselves will become adults who cannot stand up by themselves who will raise kids who will not… Y’see where we’re going now? Take the first step and everything else will fall into line. You owe it to yourself. And you owe it to those around you.

At least, that’s the way I see this. Take care. Be well. MLProko (2011) more at www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on June 22, 2011 at 3:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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