Dare to Serve: A book review by Bob Morris

Dare to ServeDare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others
Cheryl Bachelder
Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2015)

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller

In Jason Jennings’ latest book, The High-Speed Company, he draws upon 11,000 interviews of leaders in all manner of organizations. He responds to a critically important question: “How to create a sense of urgency among the workforce while achieving and then sustaining profitable growth?” The pace of this book’s narrative correctly suggests the velocity at which changes occur in which has become a global marketplace, and, the velocity at which leaders must respond effectively to those changes. According to Jennings, the people who lead the fastest and best-performing companies don’t see the world’s problems, opportunities, rewards, and costs through the lens of what they mean to them. “They understand that true happiness and satisfaction come when we focus on others. They are, at heart, caregivers who see their purposes as being the best stewards of the resources, both tangible and intangible, that have been entrusted to them and making sure that all assets are used efficiently, effectively, and profitably.”

And now his most important insight: “The single shared trait that I’d been looking for was stewardship . It was also the essential last piece of the puzzle for creating urgency and growth in a nanosecond culture.” Great leaders dare to serve rather than aspire to gain and retain power.

This is precisely what Cheryl Bachelder has in mind when describing the leaders she admires most. They were great to work for but also led their teams to remarkable results. “Their motives go beyond self-interest. They challenge you to pursue daring, bold aspirations that create an exciting place to work. They shun the spotlight in favor of serving a higher purpose. They evidence principles in their daily decisions. You not only love these leaders but also perform your very best work for them.” Her comments remind me of my favorite passage in Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Bachelder’s coverage:

o Where Did I Get This Idea for Writing the Book? (Page 6)
o Loving Those You Lead (23-26)
o The Difficulty of Serving, and, What’s In It for You? (26-29)
o What Mindsets Lie Ahead for Dare-to-Serve Leaders? (29-32)
o Focus on the Vital Few (41-43)
o Bring Out the Best in People (48-54)
o The Courage to Measure Progress (54-57)
o Why Does Meaning Matter? (63-64)
o Journey to Personal Purpose (67-73)
o The Impact of Personal Purpose (73-75)
o Sharing Personal Purpose, and, Acting on Personal Purpose (75-77)
o The Six Popeyes Principles (82-96)
o Study of Leadership (106-108)
o Reflections on Reality (108-113)
o Leaders Are Bold (116-119)
o The Point of Purpose (136-139)
o Human Dignity (142-144)
o Personal Responsibility (144-147)
o Humility (148-150)
o The Stewardship of Leadership (153-156)

The key to organizational success often depends on the nature and extent of a special kind of leadership to which Jennings referred: stewardship. That is, leadership by women and men who go through life feeling “it’s mostly about others.” Robert Greenleaf characterizes them as servant leaders. Dan Goleman would say they have highly developed emotional intelligence. Jim O’Toole would say that their values and behavior are guided by a moral compass. Bill George suggests that the great leaders are authentic and follow what he characterizes as their True North: an internal compass that guides them as a human being at their deepest level. “It is your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track as a leader. Your True North is based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions and motivations, the sources of satisfaction in your life. Just as a compass points toward a magnetic field, your True North pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership.”

I commend Cheryl Bachelder on the abundance of valuable information, insights, and counsel she provides, based on her wide and deep experience with major corporations that include Yum Brands!, Domino’s Pizza, RJR Nabisco, the Gillette Company, Procter & Gamble, and currently Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. at which she serves as CEO.

Whatever its size and nature may be, however, every organization needs Dare-to-Serve leaders at all levels and in all areas. How to develop them? Read the book. It not only explains the “how” of that process, it also explains the “why”: to drive superior results by serving others.

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