Business & Economics

The Servant Leader's Manifesto


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Leadership today is outmoded and ill-suited to activate and engage the most diverse work-force in history.

This is why leaders capable of inspiring, engaging, aligning, coaching, and coaxing out individual and team brilliance are more in need than ever before.

Hence the reason for this manifesto.

Paradoxically, the answer does not lie in systems but in humanity.

The more technology pervades our lives, the greater our need for clarity, courage, caring, culture, and talent cultivation—all things that machines cannot create for us.

We cannot wait for C-suite executives to respond appropriately to this crisis of employee engagement.

We—the managers responsible for the people who create value for our companies—must do this for ourselves, and our people.

This is our manifesto!


Why this matters

Leadership matters. Although the goal has always been to push human

progress forward, the methods have not always been in alignment

with the times. From the feudal days of indentured servitude to

today’s information age, the what motivating human potential has

seen dramatic change, but often the how has lagged behind.

The three epochs of leadership

Modern democratic society has progressed through at least three

broad epochs in terms of leadership. Th ere has been some overlap

between these stages, but each have unique characteristics that defi ne

the era and the people working within it. Technology innovations

have disrupted previous paradigms, and leadership mechanisms

should have seen similar disruption too. However, it seems that even

as we reinvent the world on the back of our tremendous innovations,

we continue to rely on tried-and-true (read: ‘archaic’) methods of

maximizing our production.

Where has this lack of progression in the science and practice of

leadership led us, but to a world where only 15% of employed people

report being engaged at work! There is a strong correlation between

employee engagement and employee productivity: Disengaged

employees equal reduced production.1 Reduced production leads

to reduced spending, and/or the rapid accumulation of debt. Debt

can lead to lower consumer confidence and the slowing of other key

economic indicators—which is why this subject should be at the top

of the board’s agenda at every Fortune 500 company.

Resistance to change

Why is low employee engagement not resulting in a revolution in

management practice? Perhaps for the same reason that we have

had alternative methods of clean energy production for decades

and alarming evidence that we are in the midst of a climate crisis,

yet we are still burning more fossil fuels than ever. Change is hard.

Rather than appealing to our better natures and promoting our need

to strive for self-actualization, businesses appeal to our baser natures

by stimulating us to chase what is obtained with relative ease: Food,

clothing, shelter, status, and creature comforts. This is what equates

to wealth in our current society, not greater safety, more love, better

esteem, or higher social impact.

A new revolution in leadership

Now we understand some of the reasons why the practice of human

motivation (aka leadership) has lagged, despite the damaging effects

of attempting to fit square-peg leadership into a round hole society.

C-suites and boardrooms are highly reluctant to introduce the kind

of radical change needed to solve the global engagement crisis. That is

why this manifesto is not addressed to them (I’ll leave that to Gallup).2

If you are still reading this, it’s likely because you believe (as I do)

that the wave of change to upend the leadership status quo will not

be a movement catalyzed in the halls of power. This revolution will

be spearheaded by new managers, frontliners, and those described as

middle management.

I’m appealing to those of you in this segment of the leadership

population because you have suffered long enough.

You’ve committed to enterprises whose so-called noble missions are


You’ve been left holding the bag when restructures have been

required because of sales targets you had nothing to do with.

Your guidance has been ignored time and again when it comes to

what adds value to customers and the people you aim to serve.

You’ve been given a boatload of stress, but no capability to lead at

the most crucial level of any company: Supporting those who interact

with the customer.

You’ve been given some training, sure, like courses with nice names

such as ‘situational coaching’ and ‘high-performance management.’

Still, you find it a struggle to align the needs of developing your people

versus delivering results.

Because you are measured on bringing in the numbers, nine times

out of ten your development—and that of your team—falls by the


Well, all of that stops now.

Together, we are going to go on a journey informed by management

science, from luminaries such as Abraham H. Maslow, Stephen R.

Covey, Patrick Lencioni, Jim Collins, Tom Rath, Donald O. Clifton,

John C. Maxwell, James C. Hunter, and Simon Sinek, to name but

a few. Forgive the lack of diversity in this group. These thought

leaders each have important contributions in describing the need for

a leadership revolution.

I’m calling this latest epoch Leadership 3.0—or the Age of

Servant Leadership.

Let’s look at how we arrived at this crucial juncture.

Leadership 1.0: Command and control

Leadership 1.0 was the period from the end of the American Civil

War through the beginning of the American Industrial Revolution,

up until the end of World War II. This era was characterized by

poorly educated, low-skill rural workers migrating from farms into

cities in search of valuable manufacturing jobs. The assembly-line

approach to productivity was invented to motivate performance,

and line management was born as an offshoot of the overseer role

dominating the agricultural age. Most men had some degree of

military background due to national and global conflict, and topdown

hierarchy was deemed the most efficient way for private-sector

organizations to operate.

The immigration boom came during the same period, as people

the world over left their shores for America in search of streets paved

with gold and a land of milk and honey. Still, despite classist barriers,

hard work and self-determinism became the hallmarks of the greatest

leaders of the age: Rockefeller in oil, Carnegie in steel, and Ford in

transportation.3 (In my estimation, Henry Ford and his Model T

automobile defined this process-powered era with the adoption of the

assembly-line—originally used in slaughterhouses—which transformed

how commodities were produced.) These industries were top-downled,

mass-production-focused, customization-averse, and hard-workpowered,

and following the chain of command was rewarded.

In short, Leadership 1.0 was about individual determinism: Your

lifestyle was proportionate to your level of opportunity, how hard you

worked, and how well you either commanded or followed commands.

Leadership 2.0: Societal change

World War I and II dramatically shifted the corporate status quo,

as women began holding down some jobs previously unavailable

to them. With the men away fighting, American women began to

develop new capabilities and a desire for greater independence.4 The

civil rights movement of the 1960s further diversified the workforce,

as disenfranchised African Americans began to climb the social,

economic, and class ladders. And in the backdrop of all this societal

change, new technologies—principally, the first computers—began to

shift the economy from a purely manufacturing base to new services

and opportunities.

This is Leadership 2.0, where hierarchy still reigned supreme but

had to be applied to types of people far less inculcated in military ways

of working. As immigrants, women, and African Americans began to

reshape the corporate landscape, teamwork and managing diversity to

achieve goals became crucial.

The archetype of this phase is President John F. Kennedy and his space

race. To bind diverse groups of people together, leaders needed to both

inspire and manage performance standards for the first time. Individual

determinism was assisted by team and technology.

Lest we forget, it took a team of African American women to solve the

key problems and equations of launching a rocket into space.5 Leadership

was still largely in step with the needs of society and its constituents, but

that would not last for long.

Between the late 1970s and the mid-2000s, the American middle

class expanded and largely prospered.6 New conveniences were

around every corner as technology moved to the forefront of business

and society. New and previously unheard-of industries emerged, as

industrialization gave rise to the modern service economy. Although

many of these companies sought to disrupt the status quo, ultimately

they were corrupted by short-term gain and profit for a few at the

expense of the labor of many.

This workforce was the most diverse in history, not only in

terms of ethnicity, sex, and nationality, but also in terms of sexual

orientation, gender, and generational mix.7 Leaders dabbled in a

few new techniques to generate value and productivity, but largely

maintained the status quo established in Leadership 2.0. It was during

this period that thinking global but acting local, ‘vitality curves,’

matrix organizations, and open offices were born. Corporations added

better, more inclusive words to their mission statements and made

some moderate progress to become more socially responsible, even as

individual dynamism continued to be disproportionately rewarded.

Take for example, Johnson & Johnson (the personal care company),

with its modern diversity and inclusion mission:

“For all employees to draw on their unique experiences

and backgrounds together—to spark solutions that create a

better, healthier world.”

Workers, clamoring for a seat at the table, began to disrupt the status quo

by voting with their feet. Employee retention, brain drain, and talent

wars characterized the era, along with a precipitous drop in employee

engagement and productivity. The number of disenfranchised people

rose, and leadership had few good answers. Meanwhile, companies

reorganized into work groups, hierarchies flattened, the agile method

was born, and responsibility became more specialized. Leveraging

technology became standard operating procedure, as organizations

sought out the best way to harness digital, data, and analytics to

improve performance. Women, ethnic minorities, and millennial’s

occupied more seats of authority than ever before—but still not

enough to upset the defined order of Leadership 2.0.

Leadership 3.0: A new era

It is within this context that we currently find ourselves. Individual

dynamism leads to far less productivity than group exceptionalism

assisted by technology. Unfortunately, most leaders of the Leadership

2.0 period are at a loss for how to respond to the desires of people

with drastically different lifestyles, talents, needs, motivations, and

preferred recognition types than themselves.

The one-size-fits-all approach of Leadership 2.0 must be replaced

by an intense focus on the intrinsic capabilities of each individual, and

the potential synergies within each group of people.

Trust is the currency of Leadership 3.0, because we are

living through arguably one of the most tumultuous ages in


Leaders capable of inspiring, engaging, aligning, coaching,

and coaxing out individual and team brilliance are more in

need than ever before.

Hence the reason for this manifesto. These pages provide a blueprint

for how to lead in this age of technology and group exceptionalism.

Paradoxically, the answer does not lie in systems but in humanity.

The more technology pervades our lives, the greater our need for

clarity, courage, caring, culture, and talent cultivation—all things that

machines cannot create for us.

We cannot wait for C-suite executives to respond appropriately to

this crisis.

We—the managers responsible for the people who create

value for our companies—must do this for ourselves, and

our people.

About the author

Omar L. Harris has been creating high-performance organizations since 2006. He is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach; a bestselling, award-winning fiction author; independent publishing guru; entrepreneur; and twenty-year veteran of the global pharmaceutical industry. view profile

Published on April 30, 2020

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Genre: Business & Economics

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