The Executive Has No Clothes – How To Thrive As A Servant Leader

Executive Has No Clothes
Executive Has No Clothes

Digging into the well of children’s literature, I ran across a classic story – The Emperor’s New Clothes. In case you aren’t familiar with the story, the emperor of the kingdom was highly vain and hired some tailors to create the finest clothes ever known. The tailors, being crooked, accepted the job, but advised the Emperor that the fabric they planned to use was so special that anyone that lacked intelligence or didn’t belong in their leadership post wouldn’t be able to see the special fabric. When the alleged garment was completed, the Emperor did not see anything, mainly because nothing had been made. In an effort not to appear unintelligent or unworthy of his leadership post, he pretended to dress in the fine garments and walked around the kingdom entirely naked and exposed. No one in a leadership post dared reveal that they didn’t see any garment, for fear of losing their position.  Finally, a child exclaimed, “The Emperor has no clothes!” with everyone eventually chiming in and agreeing. However, the damage had already been done and the Emperor was made to look foolish.

In today’s corporate environment, executives, like the Emperor, are often “naked,” so to speak. However, it’s not because of their own vanity (though I don’t eliminate that as a source of some workplace issues). What I see regularly in a range of workplaces is a lack of transparency and honest communication from reporting managers to senior executives, which leaves executives vulnerable and without clothes.

This failure to transparently communicate that the executive was not wearing any clothes reached its zenith with Congress’s passing of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) in 2002. SOX was enacted in response to a number of major corporate and accounting scandals, with the most high-profile of them being Enron, Tyco International, Adelphia, Peregrine Systems, and WorldCom. During the investigations of the alleged actions of the corporations, many executives denied culpability, insisting that they were unaware of the improprieties supporting their organization’s reported financial gains. In essence, the executives implicated claimed lack of knowledge because “no one told them that they were naked.” As a result, SOX regulations were put into place to force transparency in communication, requiring executives to sign and certify financial statements – removing the out for lack of knowledge. Although SOX has broadly been recognized as a positive governmental regulation, imposed communication is not the most effective way to manage and lead an organization and the need to develop transparent communication far exceeds corporate disclosures and financial statements.

As if communication issues are not enough, according to the Executive Job Market Intelligence Report written by Lauryn Franzoni, the Vice President and Executive Editor of ExecuNet, “It takes roughly three years of deep entrenchment in a job to reach peak performance.” The report goes on to detail that executives are often being judged on short-term stock price performance, and that the average tenure for an executive is less than three (3) years.  This heightened vortex in which the executive must perform is exacerbated by the time box in which executives are expected to produce positive change.

Fostering a high level of communication can dramatically impact an executive’s work life and minimize appearing in public without any clothes. With such a great amount of pressure and a short time to perform, executives should focus on the following steps to secure transparent communication.

Steps to ensure transparent communication:

Become A Servant LeaderRobert Greenleaf, author of “Essentials of Servant Leadership,” states that a servant leader is one that first makes sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The key test: Are those connected to you experiencing personal growth? Becoming a servant leader is a philosophy and a leadership practice which will create the relationships that will allow people to keep you informed and fully dressed.

Magnify your Public Persona – A good leader can walk amongst the crowd and promote the feeling of comradery which contributes to building your organizational culture and maintaining it. While doing so, collaborate with your team to ensure that you are setting the vision for the organization and staying focused. Your public persona must also have visible skills of organizing and planning, as this will encourage people to follow your leadership. The best leaders are delegators and are comfortable giving power to others – an act which should be done publicly to give the proper amount of praise deserved for smart work.

Pursue Relentless Self-Development – As a servant leader, you owe it to those you serve to promote their personal development, but you also owe it to yourself to constantly grow your abilities. As a servant leader you should have annual plans for increasing your technical know-how and proficiency. More importantly, a servant leader is aware and in the moment, meaning that you always have the right attitude towards other people. Lastly, the servant leader seeks psychological self-mastery, allowing your leadership presence flow and so that you may act authentically in serving those you lead.

Do you want to fulfill your leadership potential? Contact Coach Clinton to create a tailor-made coaching plan to assist you in growing into a Servant Leader.

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