Serve Up, Coach Down: A book review by Bob Morris

Serve Up, Coach Down: Mastering the Middle and Both Sides of Leadership
Nathan Jamail
Career Press (October 2018)

Leadership for all seasons

The best leaders are most effective when their organization is thriving, struggling, or somewhere in between. According to Nathan Jamail, “Simply put, leaders in the middle must be willing to serve up to those they answer to [e.g. believe in], but to serve those they lead they must coach down [e.g. focus on making them better].” The most effective leaders are resilient enough to reverse the process, seeing themselves as a servant to the best interests of those led, and, coach up by doing everything they can to increase the effectiveness of those followed.

Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Many — but not all — have direct reports entrusted to their care. Viewed as gardeners, they have a “green thumb” for “growing others.” I agree with Jamail that there are special challenges for those who are “leaders in the middle.” He wrote this book to help them develop a mindset that has several defining characteristics:

o Serve up by exceeding expectations
o Coach down by making — and requiring — a best effort and then helping to make it happen
o Their mantra: “Good enough seldom is”
o The value of a leader’s impact is determined by helping to accelerate others’ personal growth and professional development
o As both leader and follower, they are committed to adding value that has high impact
o They are comfortable and confident when nourishing their relationships with those on “both sides of leadership”

Oscar Wilde once suggested, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Nathan Jamail would add, Agreed, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot become a better you, improving each day and every day, “to become more disciplined, more motivated, and more driven.” He has written this book for those who are up to the challenge of being the best they can be for those whom they love, whom they respect, whom they follow, and whom they lead.

There’s your challenge. Embrace it. If not now, when?

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