A Manifesto: The Powerful Value of Servant Leadership in the Call Center Industry the Impact of the Traditional Power Model
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A Manifesto: The Powerful Value of Servant Leadership in the Call Center Industry the Impact of the Traditional Power Model

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution the power model of leadership has been the most common and accepted method of managing most businesses.  It was “Machiavellian”.  It drew parallels from the mechanization of industry and the efficiencies of the military.  The power model’s favorite tools were the use of external pressure, threats and manipulation to make people perform efficiently.   The power model treated people as commodities to be “used up” until they were no longer “useful” to their employer.  Employees burned out only to be replaced by another “cog in the wheel”.  People lost “heart” and their desire to be great was stifled by the fruit of the power model. 

Exploring why the servant leadership model is superior to the power model is a worthy goal.  My intention is to present thought provoking ideas that will benefit those in our industry who are looking for the most effective means to improving their customer’s experience.  Let’s look at the contrasts between the two models to get a better understanding of what these differing leadership models are and their impact on those they lead.  

(Use the “comments” section to answer the following questions.  I’d love to get your thoughts along with specific examples you have witnessed in your call center or in life.)

1. The power model of leadership RETARDS the potential of the individual and their desire to care about and be engaged in their work.  Why?

The servant model of leadership UNLOCKS the potential of the individual and inspires them to care about and be engaged their work.  Why? 

2. The power model of leadership is focused on the leader and their own appetite for acquiring power.  Why?

The servant model of leadership is focused on their followers and what they need to be successful.  Why?

3. The power leader views “power” as a scarce resource that is difficult to acquire. Why?  

The servant leader views “power” as an abundant resource that is easily acquired.  Why?  

4. The power leader views their knowledge as an aspect of what makes them powerful.  Thus, the power leader is reticent to share their knowledge with their followers.  Why?  

The servant leader views their knowledge as a means to empower those they lead.  Thus, the servant leader is confident to thoroughly share it with their followers.  Why?

5. The power leader creates dependency in those they lead. Why?

 The servant leader creates independence in those they lead.  Why?

6. The power leader strives to centralize power.  Why?

The servant leader strives to de-centralize power.  Why?

Coming up: more details on the contrasts between the two models and comments on your answers.



Topics: People Management, Culture & Morale, Learning & Development

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Mitch Whittington — 12:23AM on May 21, 2011

When reading the questions that you posed at the end of the article, I realized that the power model will not only cause stress in my employees, but it also creates a lot more work for myself. That desire to hoard information to be considered "powerful" will make everyone around you to be dependent on you to complete tasks that they themselves are capable of, just lack the know how, leaving less time to complete the tasks that you need to get done.

I cant wait for more installments on this topic, thanks for your insight Tom

Shane Campbell — 10:00PM on May 23, 2011

There is a management lid on the power model. These type of leaders get to a point and becomed damned. They cannot progress further in their development because this type of model doesnt encompass world class customer service and it is selfish in many ways.

Great article Tom, thanks for your leadership.

1. The power model of leadership RETARDS the potential of the individual and their desire to care about and be engaged in their work. Why?

I believe the power model may teach people to a point about leadership but it teaches people bad habits and perceptions that end up hurting the organization. Lots of leaders will threaten people to do their job to get results, this may work but the relationship gets worst as time progresses and eventually the employees under this leader will leave.

The servant model of leadership UNLOCKS the potential of the individual and inspires them to care about and be engaged their work. Why?

Being a servant leader is unselfish, these type of leaders will get involved and help out. They will serve their employees to ensure they are happy with their jobs and are successful as well. Its the perfect way to be a leader.

2. The power model of leadership is focused on the leader and their own appetite for acquiring power. Why?

They want the recognition, they want it all, everything good that happens in that organization is because of this typs of leader, at least that is their perception. Then they want more power, and more until it destroys them as a person and a leader.

The servant model of leadership is focused on their followers and what they need to be successful. Why?

Their followers are the next leaders in line to do great things. You teach by being a servant leader and you will develop great people.

3. The power leader views “power” as a scarce resource that is difficult to acquire. Why?

Im sure a power leader may find power to be tough to obtain because they want people to think it is so hard to lead like them, and only people like themselves can lead. They feel they are the best of the best. Like pro sports, I'm sure a power leader feels like the best person on the all star team. But is he really the best?

The servant leader views “power” as an abundant resource that is easily acquired. Why?

A servant leader teaches his followers to empower themselves to take care of the people around them or their customers.

4. The power leader views their knowledge as an aspect of what makes them powerful. Thus, the power leader is reticent to share their knowledge with their followers. Why?

I am sure a power leader is nervous that if they share their knowledge with others that they may start a similiar business and will use that same knowledge to build their business.

The servant leader views their knowledge as a means to empower those they lead. Thus, the servant leader is confident to thoroughly share it with their followers. Why?

Being empowered creates a sense of self worth, confidence and knowledge. A great skill to have in any business, makes the company look great and they feel great helping out.

5. The power leader creates dependency in those they lead. Why?

I dont believe a power leader teaches their followers how to be the next leaders. When they take all the power, they may not realize they are not building up the next generation of leaders.

The servant leader creates independence in those they lead. Why?

They teach them how to be successful because they shopw them by example.

6. The power leader strives to centralize power. Why?

A power leader wants all the power, wants everything to go through them, wants to make all the decisions, wants to do it all. This may work for a small business for a time but if that business grows this model does not work effectively.

The servant leader strives to de-centralize power. Why?
A servant leader spreads the power. Sure the leader will make the tough decisions but as you empower your employees and show them by example how things are done, they learn to make those decisions on their own, so they think like you do.

Trent Miller — 2:54PM on May 24, 2011

Awesome article Tom! Great breakdown of the two different models to show how affective servant leadership can be when applied. Keep the articles coming!

Gary Patterson — 7:11PM on May 24, 2011

As I read and reflected on this it brought me back to a though I had a few years ago, that companies are just like our economy... Each department therein is a "micro" of that economy. Though each part is independent all parts must function properly in order to have the most efficient and effective "economic system" possible. Being that we are talking about a business, we are in fact talking about people; friend and family. The questions that Tom has posed might be well answered if referred to as a parent to a child. Children will learn more and try harder to please a parent that leads out of love and caring. On the other hand; a parent that leads through the use of force or intimidation will find that the child will grow to resent the parent, not respect them.

Servant Leadership introduces the leader and those to be lead into a new environment where the leader is truly invested into the growth of the "followers" on both an individual and macro basis. It is this type of leadership that will begin to separate the Great from "the rest."

Great article Tom! I am excited to see this type of mentality develop within people!

Bobby Robertson — 8:24PM on May 24, 2011

Great post. I am looking forward to your future blog about Servant leadership.

Chelsey Dickison — 10:13PM on May 24, 2011

Tom, I have loved your blogs about servant leadership! I am a new supervisor in Customer Support. My previous supervisor strived to live servant leadership with not only her team, but others as well. She encouraged me to live the model of servant leadership well before I became a supervisor.
Servant leadership has been somewhat of a challenge for me to incorporate because I find myself getting caught up in all the emails, tasks, and meetings I need to attend. I have found that it takes a lot of faith to put the needs of your followers first before your own needs. But the rewards are great! There is great success that comes with following the principle in your second question… “Focus on your followers and what THEY NEED to be successful.”
Yesterday instead of jumping into my many emails and tasks that I NEEDED to complete, I immediately focused on what my team was telling me they need. My first two hours were dedicated to working on little things that were important to my pros (i.e. getting them water bottles they didn’t receive in training, showing them how to request their paid time off, working out their Sunday rotation, schedule needs, etc…). I was worried that I wouldn’t get done the things I needed to get done. It took a lot of faith, but it worked out great! By putting others needs before my own, not only did I finish all my tasks, but my team knew that I was their advocate and acknowledged how far I was willing to go to serve them. By being an example of service leadership through putting the needs of my team first, I noticed that my team then transferred that mentality to our customers. And that was the most incredible part! Not only do we need to strive to be servant leaders ourselves… but we need our “front line” professionals to be serving our customers through this model as well. We want our professionals serving our customers instead of acquiring ideas from the power model. Our example as managers and supervisors is going to make all the difference.
Thanks for the article Tom! It has changed the way I lead my team. And it works.

Chris Veniott — 1:49AM on May 25, 2011

Tom, great information you provide to us and people on all levels can benefit from what your share.
My feeling in becoming a successful leader stems from having a strong vision and knowing how to share that vision with others. With such a vision comes a passion. If you can share this passion those who you are leading will conquer anything and everything. A leader's passion will inspire everyone around them to want to become better. When we talk about our employees feeling a disconnect from their leaders, they cant feel your passion and without them knowing how passionate you are they have start to lose their confidence in you. If Alexander The Great's followers lost confidence in his vision, would he ever have succeeded?
I feel as though the leaders we have are great at sharing their passion and vision with all of us and that pushes us as a company to become better, to overcome all obstacles and tackle the unknown.

Dana Peterson — 7:43AM on May 25, 2011

1. The power model of leadership RETARDS the potential of the individual and their desire to care about and be engaged in their work. Why? The servant model of leadership UNLOCKS the potential of the individual and inspires them to care about and be engaged their work. Why?
a. I feel like for someone to truly give their heart and soul to their job, they HAVE to feel like they are appreciated, or that they will be appreciated for their efforts. When we use the Power model, our focus isn’t on appreciating, serving, or giving back in anyway. We are focused on ourselves, our own needs, our own goals, and when we focus on this we can’t appreciate others for their work. When they don’t feel that appreciation, they have no motivation to give their best effort.
b. When an employee, or a person in any setting feels safe they are don’t have to focus any energy on protecting themselves. When they feel safe they have their whole energy to devote to the end goal, which in our case is their job. As they learn that their supervisor (using the servant model of course ) actually cares about and appreciates their work and them as a person, they continue in that circle of feeling safe, and giving all because they feel safe
2. The power model of leadership is focused on the leader and their own appetite for acquiring power. Why? The servant model of leadership is focused on their followers and what they need to be successful. Why?
a. Really both leadership styles WANT the end goal. They both WANT to be successful, or for the company to be successful. The power model most likely comes more naturally to more people. As humans, we all are pretty selfish. Take care of number one and all that. What a good leader realizes is that it’s possible to take care of yourself, AND to take care of your people, and the only way you can do both is by focusing on your people. If you take care of them, they will take care of you too.
3. The power leader views “power” as a scarce resource that is difficult to acquire. Why? The servant leader views “power” as an abundant resource that is easily acquired. Why?
a. Because with the leadership style that they are using, they are kicking their “power” or legs out from under their selves. Power is SO MUCH like the “right of way” while driving. TECHNICALLY the right of way must always be given. A pedestrian has the right of way, but if the car doesn’t stop, you know who will win that battle. A power leader wants to take the power. A servant leader has the power given to them by employees who trust them with it. When you come to a cross walk and walk out in front of the cars without looking because, after all, you have the right of way, you risk loosing your “power” pretty quick. It will end up being taken from you. But if you come to the cross walk and make eye contact with the driver, and they signal you to cross, they have given you that power.
4. The power leader views their knowledge as an aspect of what makes them powerful. Thus, the power leader is reticent to share their knowledge with their followers. Why? The servant leader views their knowledge as a means to empower those they lead. Thus, the servant leader is confident to thoroughly share it with their followers. Why?
a. The power leader feels like if the others know what they know then they will be replaced.
b. The servant leader realizes that they are always supposed to be training and bringing up their replacement, and that their supervisor should be doing the same as well.

Jenny Willis — 10:35PM on May 29, 2011

Thinking of questions 5 and 6, I realized that the Power Model empowers one person, while the Servant Leadership model empowers all employees. We've all heard the saying that "two heads are better than one." Empowered employees bring unique strengths and talents to the work environment and create a much more successful and powerful business.

Ken W — 2:37PM on Jul 6, 2011

The points that Mitch and Chelsea make about the time it takes to implement Servant leadership are critical. Most leaders recognize the need, but lack the time commitment and discipline to do it. As a result a large percentage of leaders are stuck in this middle ground between the two models. Which may be worse in some cases than just sticking with the Power Model.

So a valid answer to all of your questions is that the Power leader is just too lazy to change.

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