“The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware…When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, All the people say, ‘We ourselves have achieved it!'”
– The Tao te Ching
A Culture of Greatness
The San Antonio Spurs are an anomaly in the professional sports world. They have consistently finished their seasons at or near the top of the Western Conference in the NBA. Since the latest restructuring of the conferences in the NBA, 9 of 13 champions have come from the Western Conference. Until the current reign of the Golden State Warriors, the sort of success the San Antonio Spurs have had was unprecedented in the NBA [especially in the ultra-competitive Western Conference]. Coach Gregg Popovich has been a pillar of their success. Popovich is known for being silent and a bit aloof, often shying from media attention, preferring to give it to his players instead. After veteran Tim Duncan, a member of some of their most successful teams retired in 2016, Popovich said, “I would not be standing here if it were not for Tim Duncan.” While there are other elements to the Spurs success, Popovich’s desire to bestow praise on his followers [players] and challenge and empower his players to be their best are two great examples of giver leadership.
While giver leadership is an ancient philosophy, its inclusion into modern organizational structures is a revolutionary practice. Consider the rise of modern tech giants who create and foster a sense of collaboration, innovation, and have revolutionized the workplace (can link to an article on the site here). Many of them are celebrated for their open and non-hierarchical organizational structures which openly encourage followers to offer and execute on their ideas.
Giver leadership subverts the traditional model of leadership. Followers do not seek to serve the leader; the leader seeks to serve her or his followers. Through serving others, rather than having followers serve the leader, the followers, or employees, are empowered to create, work, and think with increased ingenuity and are given a sense of purpose and meaning. Purpose and meaning, both important aspects of work aligned with Millennial values, arises from the sense of freedom and empowerment given to employees to guide their own actions.
So, it’s obvious: giver leadership is all about others, right?
Giver leadership is all about you.
At least at first.
Because giver leadership starts with you.
Leading Others: It Starts with You
“To lead others, first lead yourself.”
– John Maxwell
When asked what his greatest challenge as a leader was, legendary leadership coach John Maxwell enthusiastically replied, “Leading me!” Self-management is often the most difficult job a leader is tasked with. However, effective self-management is essential to be an effective leader. If you effectively manage yourself, set a good example, others will line up to follow you. If you do not, others will hesitate to follow you.
Where does effective self-management begin?
What is Self-Awareness and how do we cultivate it?
Self-awareness is defined as “conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” While knowing yourself seems like an easy enough thing to do – “I’m myself every day!” – deeply understanding your own motivations and desires, and where they arise from, can be very difficult. Despite its difficulty, self-awareness is an essential element of being an effective giver leader.
Self-awareness begins with identifying your strengths, your weaknesses, and understanding how those align with your team. To help you develop a deeper self-awareness, we created a tool to encourage self-inquiry. Once you begin to understand your strengths and how those empower your team to perform at its highest, you can begin to understand and articulate what’s in it for them, your followers.
A New Paradigm of Self-Awareness: The Rise of the Giver Leader
Giver leadership is, you guessed it, about giving. That’s why we call it giver leadership because it puts the focus on what we believe leadership is truly about: giving, providing value to others. Giver leadership transcends the selfishness and dictatorial nature of the old model of leadership.
The old model of leadership placed the leader at the top of the hierarchy. This causes followers to seek to appease the leader. Followers are not empowered as they act in the best interest of the leader in the hope that they please them. This behavior and organizational structure fosters an atmosphere and culture of distrust and selfishness. It asks, “What’s in it for me?” Instead, we should flip that and as an effective leader seek to ask, “What’s in it for them?”
WIFThem (What’s In it For Them?) articulates your values in a way that provides solutions and benefits for others. As a leader, understanding that it’s really about others, WIFThem, is the first step to empowering your followers. Though giver leadership may start with self-awareness, it ends with others.
Ends with Others: The Rise of the Giver Leader
In my book, Chasing Relevance: 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace, I discuss how reframing your mindset from it being about you to how you can serve others through developing self-awareness is crucial for effective giver leadership. For example, I discuss how “We are good at solving client’s problems” – I-focused – becomes “We are curious and ask tough, insightful questions that push our clients” – other-focused. Through making this shift, we articulate the value that we can give to others. We create a culture of success, focused on constant innovation, collaboration, and improvement. These are essential to cultivating quality, meaningful relationships where everyone wins and, as we know from the Harvard study of happiness, that is the most important part of leading a happy, healthy life.
And, ultimately: Isn’t that what we’re all after?
Giver leadership is about subverting the traditional, and now outdated, model of leadership. It places the leader at the bottom of the hierarchy and asks WIFThem – a model that seeks to empower followers to create, innovate, and function at their best. To understand what’s in it for others, we must seek to understand ourselves. To serve others, we must know ourselves.
We’ve created a tool to help.
Go to our site to find resources that will help you develop self-awareness and empower you and your team to win. https://launchbox365.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/WIFThemG%C3%87%C3%B6Whats-in-it-for-Them.pdf