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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #172: How to Develop a Servant Leader Mindset

January 27, 2022
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #172: How to Develop a Servant Leader Mindset

Servant leadership and traditional leadership require different mindsets. Today, Perry and Chris talk about the five components of a servant leader mindset.

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley at John Maxwell, facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, vice president with John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining. Just as a reminder, as we get started, if you want to get the blog that goes along with our podcast conversation today, if you want to learn more about our 5 Levels of Leadership content that really this entire podcast was based off of, I want you to visit, and there you can fill out a form, leave your name, also leave a question or comment for Perry and I.

Perry Holley:    Please.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, please. Helps us with content and we’d be more than happy to dig into that on a future episode with you.

Perry Holley:    Had some great questions lately.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    That people are thinking about, I’m enjoying.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, and listening. I’m excited about that.

Yes. Well, today’s topic is How to Develop a Servant Leader Mindset.

And we, just last episode, did an entire episode on servant leadership and how Perry just created an incredible servant leadership training course and we’ve been rolling it out to organizations. And if you want to access that servant leadership course and the training that Perry’s been doing with executive teams, I want to encourage you to go to and there you can fill out a form, leave your request, and our team will follow back up with you on that.

Well, today’s topic is titled “How to Develop a Servant Leader Mindset”. I love this topic because we kind of debunked a little bit of a myth last episode about really what a servant leadership is, or people perceive it to be. And I really believe that a servant leader, they have to have a different mindset, when leading people. And it’s much opposite than a traditional leadership model. A lot of times people lead by either how they were led or how they want to be led, and there’s so much more to that that’s around the mindset. Is that where you’re going with this, or what made you think about it from a mindset standpoint?

Perry Holley:    Yeah, it’s really… We’ve heard so much. You brought it up last week on previous episode that some people think about servant leadership being weak, or simple, uncomplicated, that it’s soft, I’ve heard different things and I just find that to be completely unfounded. If you’ve ever tried this, to be a true servant leader, it requires an intentional mindset and very specific actions and skills that, we use the word subordinate yourself to the service of the people on the team to help make them successful. And it’s not easy, it requires a certain mindset so I decided I had not seen a servant leader mindset written anywhere, but I thought, “Oh, that to me, as I’ve been studying this, I really need to adapt to a mindset of thinking like this, like it doesn’t naturally come natural.”

We talked last week about serving and leading at the same time. There’s a bit of a contrast there, a bit of a paradox. You got to think, “I need to do both of these things at the same time, can I do it?” That’s where I was going.

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Chris Goede:     Well, I love it and our listeners that, didn’t get a chance, I want to encourage you to listen to last week, but we love this definition from Kouzes And Posner on servant leadership. It says “a leader whose actions and motivations reflect a selfless commitment to a cause and organization or their teammates.” And so I just wanted to kind of set that as a foundation of how we kind of are basing this off of the definition of servant leadership.

I’m very excited and you’re serving me well, I see you have a five part model on the mindset of a servant leader.

Perry Holley:    It’s such a great number, five don’t you think?

Chris Goede:     Love it.

Perry Holley:    But I think each of these five components needs to be in place if you’re going to have this mindset and the first one is really around what is your intent and what it means and you can think about a servant leader versus a traditional leader style is that traditional leader style may have intent for the company, for the goal, the intent of a servant leader is really to lead the person, to serve the person, the teammate.

Chris Goede:     Yeah.

Perry Holley:    So I don’t know if that, when you see the word intent, haven’t really thought about what’s my intent as a leader? That kind of came natural. A servant leader requires an intentional mindset on that.

Chris Goede:     Yeah and I love, when we talk about the word intent, because we often talk about there’s a big gap in the leader’s intent versus how we’re being received or perceived. And that’s why I love that this is number one, because we need to make sure that this mindset behind being a servant leader starts with your intent behind leading people, and yes, we need to make sure that we’re staying focused on agendas and deliverables and driving results but if we do that at the expense of our people and not putting our people first and our intent behind leading them and making them as successful as they possibly can be, I think we’re missing it. And we will not be perceived as a servant leader.

Perry Holley:    I was going to say the way you said that, do you think people can perceive your intent? Do you present yourself in such a way they think what’s important to you?

Chris Goede:     I absolutely think you can.

Perry Holley:    Yeah.

Chris Goede:     Let me say this. I absolutely think there’s a massive gap between our intent and how we’re being received or perceived as a leader, but it’s our job as leaders to close that gap.

Perry Holley:    Shrink it. Yeah.

Chris Goede:     So can we do it? Absolutely. It takes a lot of work but I think this is where it starts. Right?

Perry Holley:    Number two is around the word presence and it’s really about focused attention. So if you have the intent to serve the person, then your presence is that focused attention on the person and you are fully engaged with the teammate and you think about this from a traditional, maybe get your thoughts on that. How does that differ from a traditional leadership? Where is your presence? Where your intent and your presence are focused differently.

Chris Goede:     I’m convicted. I appreciate it, Perry. But I feel like when you just asked that question, I, as a leader-

Perry Holley:    I was trying not to look at you, while I said it.

Chris Goede:     Listeners, once again, this lesson that Perry has created is directly for me. This happens often, and her and doesn’t tell me about it until we get into the lesson.

But when you talk about being present is really, right, what we’re talking about? Most traditional leaders got a hundred other things going on and you can see it in their, while you’re sitting down and you’re talking to them, you see they’re not there, right? And they’re not present with you. They’re not focused on the issue at hand, or maybe what’s really important to them.

And I think one of the greatest compliments you can get as a leader is man, when I’m having a conversation with Perry, it feels like nothing else is going on in Perry’s leadership world, even though I know Perry’s got a thousand things going on.

And when I think about that, that’s a mindset of you getting in and saying, “Man, I’m going to make sure that Chris knows that right now, I want to be present for this conversation. And this is the most important thing for me is this conversation with him, not the a thousand other things that you got going on.”

And I think so many times as leaders, we have so many things going on that we don’t do a good job of that. And why I say I’m convicted is because I’m thinking about conversations I’ve had in the last 48 hours where I’m like, I don’t know that I was very present for that conversation. And so does that display a servant leader’s mindset?Perry Holley:    One thing I’ve learned in this study of servant leadership and being able to address, that mindset is those two things have to be in alignment. We’ve only talked about two of the five, which is, if my intent is for the people, then my presence will come. If my intent is for the company, my presence is going to- they need to be an alignment or my presence is going to be tangled up in the distractions of the larger organizational instead of focusing on the person. So it’s, to me, it’s an alignment thing on those first two.

Number three is about provision. And this means how do you take care of, or supply the needs of the people on the team? And you think, what is your role if my intent is for the people, I have focused attention and presence, then how do I provide for the people on the team? What is the provision to do that?

I’ll give you an example, and then you get your comment on it. But I didn’t put this into any of the training, but it’s kind of the idea of a shepherd and sheep is that the sheep are everything. Everything the shepherd does, he or she is caring for and providing for, and has complete intent for the safety of, and the provision of the sheep. And when you think about it that way, I start to think about what is my role as a servant leader? How do I provide for the team and for individuals?

Chris Goede:     And outside of just going, well, they get paid to work here, right? Like you should be happy, you’re working here, you got a paycheck coming to you on Friday. And that’s the problem leaders. When your team begins to work inside the organization or team, because of just that paycheck, it’s a big reason don’t get me wrong, but just because of that paycheck, that’s not the only way that you need to be providing for them. But if you’re not thinking like that, that should give you signals that you don’t necessarily lead with a servant leadership mindset, because there’s other ways to provide for the team. And then care, which I see you have down as, as number four.

Perry Holley:    Thinking about how really, they connect. If I got my intent is for the person, my presence is focused attention. My provision, I’m thinking about how to provide for them, and now I’m looking about how do I care for them? The way we present that is really caring for them personally, caring for their family, caring for how and when and where they work, the conditions of their work. All kinds of things that get tangled up in the idea of caring for someone at a level that says, “I want you to succeed. I’m here to make you have what you need.”

Chris Goede:     I remember early on in 2019, I should say early on in the pandemic in 2019, some of the best leadership advice that I’d read or received was, “Hey, you need to make sure that your team knows that you care for their safety.” And that’s the most important thing that you can be doing right now. What makes them feel comfortable? Where do they feel safe? And I thought, man, too many of us as leaders during those times, and maybe now in everyday life, we begin thinking about what’s going on professionally, we don’t necessarily think about personally.

And I get it, there’s a balance that you need to have between those two. But I would encourage you to be thinking about those that you have influence with that you think about them, both professionally and personally of how you can care for them.

Perry Holley:    And number five. So if I’ve got the right intent and I’m present and I’m providing and I’m showing care, then the number five was reward. Am I celebrating the progress, the results, even the the effort that I’m seeing from each member of the team? And letting them know, that they’re not just spinning their tires, that we’re actually making progress and, and rewarding that.

It’s come up a lot of times recently on these 360 degree assessments we do for leaders, that you don’t celebrate, especially with the intensity of the last two years is as they’re saying that, “Wow, we hit the number and then guess what we got next week? Another number.”

Chris Goede:     A bigger number.

Perry Holley:    A bigger number. Yeah. And we didn’t celebrate what we did. And I said, well, did you make the number? “Oh yeah, we made the number. We just got to look at the next year.” And the leadership moved right past it. So don’t underestimate the power of celebration.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. You definitely have to reward them. I’ve had the privilege of working alongside for John for a long time and there’s not anybody else in my life that thinks bigger and has bigger goals than John. But man, there’s nobody that likes to celebrate more than he does. And so we’ll celebrate big accomplishments, big goals, but then as that celebration is wrapping up, he’s like, “Hey everybody, and put your seat belts on. Let me tell you where we’re going next.”

And so it’s okay to challenge them, but don’t do it outside of rewarding them to your point. So as I wrap up, if you want to be leading with a servant leadership mindset, and that’s where it starts, right? What is in our mind will come first, then our behaviors will follow after that.

And so I just want to encourage you to go back to the five things that Perry’s laid out for us, where he talks about, “Hey, what’s the intent behind what you’re doing? Where’s your presence in regards to your conversations and your leadership and your meetings, and whether it’s Zoom, whether it’s phone calls, they can feel that, so make sure you’re very present. How are you providing, what’s the provision? Number four, we talked about that, how are you caring for them? What are you thinking about when in regards to caring for them. And then finally the celebration, or the reward.”

So this is the beginning of how you become a more effective servant leader, and I just want to encourage you to do it. I don’t think organizations have enough servant leaders inside their world. And it does take a warrior to be able to lead that way, and consistently lead that way for a long time.

Perry Holley:    Fantastic. Well, thank you, Chris. And thank you all for joining us. As a reminder, if you want to get the learner guide for this episode, you can do that at You can also leave a comment or a question for us there. You can also learn more about the five levels of leadership and the 360 degree leader. We’re always glad to hear from you. We hope you’ll leave a comment there for us, and we’re always grateful that you would join us here each week. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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