The Servant Leader: Unleashing the Power of Your People


In The Servant Leader, Robert P. Neuschel makes the case that our leadership is experiencing a diminution in ethics and a loss of enduring values. These weakening factors are exacerbated by a preoccupation with the short term. As Neuschel puts it, "We are more concerned about achieving quick shareholder value than building an enduring organization that can increase its capacity to produce useful products or services more competitively and more effectively on an enduring basis."...
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In The Servant Leader, Robert P. Neuschel makes the case that our leadership is experiencing a diminution in ethics and a loss of enduring values. These weakening factors are exacerbated by a preoccupation with the short term. As Neuschel puts it, "We are more concerned about achieving quick shareholder value than building an enduring organization that can increase its capacity to produce useful products or services more competitively and more effectively on an enduring basis." He lays the blame at the feet of our corporate leadership.

He asks: what steps might we take to revitalize the quality and strength of our leadership? He then forcefully and straightforwardly gives an outline of what he believes are the major changes in leadership we must bring about. As a professor of management and strategy, and earlier, as a director and senior partner at a major consulting firm, and as a captain in the U. S. Army, Neuschel observed the best of leadership, and practiced it. He shares his insights with us in The Servant Leader.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810123397
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2005
  • Series: Kellogg Ser.
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 847,436
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert P. Neuschel was professor of corporate governance at the Kellogg School of Management, a director and senior partner at leading consulting firm McKinsey & Company, and a retired captain in the U.S. Army. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and authored more than 125 articles on a wide range of management subjects. He died in 2004.
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Read an Excerpt

Unleashing the Power of Your People

Northwestern University Press
Copyright © 2005

Virginia Maxwell Neuschel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8101-2339-7


There are no simple formulas that can guarantee success as a leader. There are no slick, prepackaged techniques that can teach you to lead or manage in a matter of hours. Leadership is a skill that requires capacity, dedication, and experience (which means time to live and learn). Therefore, in this book I will deal with fundamental values and ideas about leadership. The book will deal with many of the enduring aspects of leadership, covering the fundamentals, the old-fashioned but essential "blocking and tackling."

My views on leadership have been shaped by some fifty years of experience. Early on, I spent five years observing and practicing the art of leadership as an officer in the U.S. Army both in the United States and in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Then I spent over thirty years with McKinsey & Company, Inc., the international management consulting firm, where I served industrial and government clients on all six continents. The focus of that work was primarily in strategic planning, organization structure, management development, and logistics. After retiring from McKinsey & Company in 1979, I became a professor of corporate governance at Northwestern University's J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management. I also served during this period for twelve years as managing director of the Transportation Center at Northwestern, which is one of the leading institutions for research and education on transportation and logistics in the United States and perhaps the world.

Despite my academic involvement, this book will not be an academic treatise. I will not, in fact cannot, support many of the conclusions I reach about leadership with an array of evidence from scholarly studies.

I am writing this book because I am convinced that the greatest challenge facing the Free World's societies today is developing a sufficient number of quality leaders to lead our institutions. I am further convinced that increasing human effectiveness is one of the few remaining business frontiers, mastery of which will give a competitive advantage to our corporations in the future. It also will be important to our universities, our churches, our government-any organization. Clearly the individual who aspires to be an effective leader has most to gain from meeting the challenge of increasing the effectiveness of those who work with him or her.

Therefore, the purpose of this book is to provoke, inform, and inspire those who desire to increase their capacity to manage and lead. It is not meant to be a study of organization behavior, rather it will focus on the individual as leader. I intend to explore the anatomy of leadership, to dissect it and examine many of its important facets. I wish to add some light to a subject pondered by humanity throughout the ages. My hope is that this book will serve to enhance the practices of successful executives and to serve as a supplement to aspiring business students at the university level.

The trend toward teaching leadership at both graduate and undergraduate levels in our universities is a strong one that will increase in importance in the future. Not that leadership can be taught in the classroom. Basically we learn to lead by leading. But we can learn much in the classroom that can serve as a guide to shaping and developing our own leadership patterns.

During my thirty years at McKinsey I had frequent opportunities to work on client studies with graduates from most of the major graduate business schools. It is true that because of our rigorous selection process we recruited the "Best of the Best." Perhaps therefore my exposure did not necessarily represent a universal pattern. However, I did have considerable exposure to MBAs from such graduate schools as Harvard, Dartmouth, Carnegie Mellon, Chicago, Wharton, Stanford, and of course, Kellogg-to name a few. I was overall most favorably impressed with their maturity and solid understanding of what constituted quality leadership as we observed and studied it in client organizations. Based on much personal exposure to their client work and many one-on-one in-depth conversations, I sensed that their MBA experience helped them to distinguish and evaluate quality leadership as they were to later observe it in client executives themselves.

While they clearly were skilled at analysis and the numbers, I sensed that they had also acquired the beginnings of wisdom along the way. Obviously during my twenty years on the Kellogg faculty I have seen the transformation that takes place during students' two years in the MBA program. Admittedly they do not manage or lead an organization in their two years in Kellogg. But I am convinced that the typical MBA graduate is well positioned and motivated to assume a managerial leadership role in their after school business experience.

While talking about Kellogg, it is important to highlight the leadership contribution of Donald Jacobs, the long time Dean of the Kellogg School. In his leadership he practices the philosophy of Jethro, the teacher of Moses. Dean Jacobs has perfected the fine art of delegation with great skill while in the process he mentors, develops, and grows the faculty. This has a cascading, energizing impact on the MBA students. The students clearly recognize that the faculty is encouraged-yes, charged-to grow and reach and stretch. This is indeed a form of servant leadership that Donald Jacobs practices, one in which the faculty is coached and challenged to make an increasing contribution to the quality of teaching and thus to help the students and the school to grow; and in the process, the faculty has grown and blossomed and as a result gains great personal satisfaction because of the increased contribution they are able to make to the success of the school. This is servant leadership as practiced in academia.

One important element that university training can contribute to the aspiring leader is a well-rounded view of the world and the student's place in it. While leaders must be competent in their field, they must never believe the sun rises and sets only on their own function or area of management. Nor should leaders view themselves solely as technical experts-leaders solve problems through people in an organization. We are faced with a nagging, perennial problem. Technology outpaces our ability to manage it. Thus our future progress depends more on our ability to lead with better technology, not just to create technology. The sine qua non of leadership is to recognize that accomplishments can be made only through your people.

People are the primary materials with which leaders work, and the leader's task is to organize and inspire them to achieve the mission. Technique and process are not enough. Great skills in finance, computer logic, or marketing, to name a few, are of little value unless we have the capacity to use them to get important things done through people. It is vital to understand that the individual's function is part of a living whole, to understand how each role fits in, how the various roles supplement or even conflict with the other parts or people in the business. It is necessary to know what are reasonable and realistic trade-offs that can and should be made with other areas of the total activity. The highest calling of leaders is to know how to shape the parts to make them fit better into the whole. Just as John Donne spoke of mankind when he said, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent," so it is with individual leaders at any level in the organization. The leader is part of the whole and his or her responsibility is to make the whole greater because of his/her leadership presence.

We are all aware that much already has been written on the subject of leadership. Authors have expounded on the subject since the earliest of times. You may recall that Jethro gave Moses a great fatherly lecture on leadership that helped save the Israelite nation almost thirty-four hundred years ago. Along the way other great minds have thought and written about leadership. For example:

º More than four hundred years before Christ, Plato (428-348 B.C.) analyzed the ways of rulers with marvelous insights in his Republic, in which he speaks of the ideal state or republic where philosopher-rulers would be supreme and they would "rule to enhance the ruled."

º In the first century A.D., Plutarch wrote brilliantly about the lives of Roman and Greek leaders. His biographies of Fabius, Alexander, Caesar, Anthony, and Marcellus, for example, provide us with some of the finest and most insightful lessons on leadership found anywhere in literature.

º Shakespeare, in the sixteenth century, had much wisdom on the subject. He often borrowed from Plutarch and the Bible, but re-expressed their thoughts in unusually penetrating and beautiful ways. His studies of the struggle of a Hamlet, a Macbeth, a King Lear, or a Caesar are unforgettable examples of leadership under stress.

º In the Middle Ages, Machiavelli gave us much food for thought in his brilliant and incisive writing about how princes get, hold, and use power.

º More recently, the elitist French leader Charles de Gaulle said, "Men are of no importance. What counts is who commands."

James MacGregor Burns, one of the leading contemporary writers on the subject, says, "Leadership is a baffling subject." He maintains that he is still groping to understand the nature of leadership, and adds, "It is one of the most observed and least understood human phenomena on earth."

Burns is correct. Ironically, more has been written and less understood about leadership than almost any other topic in the field of behavioral science. I had the privilege of meeting at length with Jim Casey, the founder, one of the early leaders, and the driving force behind the success of United Parcel Service. I became acquainted with him during his later years as an elder statesman. At that time he spoke from a well of wisdom. He expressed the strong belief that only one thing could ever drive UPS out of business and that would be if it were to lose its inspired leadership, from its drivers through all levels of management up to the chief executive officer.

Leadership is more art than science. No human being can be accurately and unequivocally categorized. My approach, therefore, will be to:

º Convey some lessons about leadership I have observed in business, military, church, hospital, and university organizations.

º Examine the important responsibilities of the leader.

º Evaluate the significant traits of leaders. What are they like and what do they have in common?

º Extract lessons from the experiences of leaders selected from a wide variety of organizations.

When you finish reading this book, you will not be a better manager or leader. I repeat, you can learn to lead only by leading. But the book will help in a small way to push you along in your leadership journey and show you how to make the most of it. It will do so more readily if, as you read and study the pages that follow, you will ask yourself, and ponder, the following questions:

º Have I moved closer to my mission? In fact, do I have a mission? Has it been clearly articulated and accepted? Do I really live my mission?

º How good a leader have I been? What specific improvements in the people for whom I am responsible have I brought about in the past year-few years? In what ways have I elevated my organization? How is it better because of me?

º What standards of measurement have I set for myself? What constitutes improvement? What am I shooting for as a leader? In fact, what does a good leader do-what separates him/her from the ordinary?

º Have I thought deeply and in an organized way about the jobs of my subordinates, that is, what must they do, and how, to be successful-to grow? How can I help them?

º Do I know how each of my subordinates really is performing-where each needs guidance, inspiration, or technical assistance? Does each understand the enterprise and live our mission-do they know what I want and how I will judge them?

º How am I perceived by my subordinates and to what extent am I truly being followed? If I did not have the badge of office, to what extent would I be looked upon as a natural leader?

º How well have I ordered my priorities? Where and how can I make the most difference? Am I targeting in on the right places? The right activities? The right people?

º How many people for whose performance I am responsible could handle my job in six months-in two years?

º Who has truly grown under me and what role did I play in that growth?

Far more important than what is written here is what you the reader think, particularly about those provocative questions. You must learn to think deeply about your own role as a leader, the quality of your leadership, and how you can improve. Critical in this process is reflection on how well or poorly you have led in the past. One must understand and learn from one's own past in order to improve future performance. I hope the questions listed above will act as a stimulus and a challenge. Take a moment right now to think about them. Only as you take specific action on these questions will any of what is written here have any value to you.

Before wading into deeper waters, let me set a bit more perspective by pointing out some important reasons why all of us should be increasingly concerned about managerial leadership.

The management task in our society is becoming increasingly complex and difficult. Our deregulated and highly competitive business environment places a premium on quality management and leadership, more so than at any time in the past. The globalization of world markets has intensified competition and raised the demands for success. As a result there will be more managerial obsolescence in our organizations in the future. Moreover, people in our organizations today raise questions. They want to know why. Many workers today do not know "their place." They are smarter and better informed. We no longer have servants or slaves. Their approach is not servile but competitive and adversarial. This undoubtedly makes the leader's role more difficult, at least more challenging.

Let us turn now to look at managing and leading from a global point of view. We are a society of organizations in which there is much distrust and many possible dangers. Many fear:

º Nuclear war-an atomic holocaust;

º Worldwide epidemics-like a replay of the black plague, or even our new fear of the spread of AIDS;

º Widespread famine such as was experienced in sub-Saharan Africa some years ago and in northeast Africa in recent times.

Personally, I fear even more the likelihood of a general failure to develop leaders of high quality in sufficient numbers to effectively manage our institutions-at all levels, from the grassroots manager to the president. We are a society of organizations; we get things done through people in an organized way. Humankind has progressed because of the ability to work effectively in organizations. The demand for new, quality managers is never-ending-it is insatiable. We must never stop developing new leaders.


Copyright © 2005 by Virginia Maxwell Neuschel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Prelude : "Neuschel's nuggets" 3
1 Putting leadership into perspective 13
2 Two requirements of the successful executive 25
3 Managers and leaders - are they the same? 29
4 The foundations of leadership : character and personality 33
5 The relationship between leadership and followership 37
6 Examining the tasks of the manager/leader 41
7 Setting demanding expectation levels 47
8 The importance of self-management by the leader 51
9 Developing and articulating a sense of mission 59
10 Important traits and characteristics of the manager/leader 63
11 Speaking clearly but first listening well 75
12 Desire and capacity to manage change 81
13 Are leaders born or made? 87
14 The concept of the servant leader 95
15 Managerial leadership styles 101
16 Leading through other leaders 107
17 Developing new manager/leaders 113
18 Responsibility for personal growth 117
19 The role of ethics and value setting in leadership 121
20 In summary - what does it all add up to? 129
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