Servant Leadership Leads to a Flourishing Workplace Culture

Published March 3, 2020

The next time I talk to Patrick Lencioni, I’m going to thank him for what he shared at the 2019 Global Leadership Summit.

He named the either-or choice that motivates and defines every leader: the choice to be a rewards-centered leader vs. a servant leader.

  • Rewards-centered leaders are motivated by what they can get out of leadership.
  • Servant leaders are motivated to serve the people they lead.

Which of us would choose to lead because of what’s in it for us? Why even raise the question?

Your motivation will leak into your culture.

Because sooner or later, we need to ask ourselves, “What’s truly motivating me to lead in this role? When adversity mounts and the pressure rises, what’s my default? At the end of the day, am I motivated to look out for #1, or to serve others before myself?”

Your motivation will leak into your culture.

How you treat people becomes a gravitational force of character, competence and chemistry that can tilt the health of your culture in one of two directions—toxic or flourishing.

As the leader goes, so goes the culture. And as the culture goes, so goes the organization.


What’s a leader to do?


Patrick Lencioni pointed to three ways leaders can serve others effectively:

1. Rewards-centered leaders don’t like to have uncomfortable conversations.

Servant leadership, on the other hand, practices healthy communication—one of the eight drivers of a flourishing workplace culture. When conflict arises, servant leaders address it quickly. They focus on the problem or issue, not on the individuals or personalities. If conflict becomes too emotional, they take time to pause to let things cool down. Then, they ask good questions, listen to answers and seek solutions that are a win-win for everyone involved.

I like what bestselling author and respected negotiator Sheila Heen says: “Navigating difficult conversations has to do more with reflecting on your story first, and then changing the purpose of your conversation.”


2. Rewards-centered leaders do not like to do teambuilding.

Servant leaders accurately see fantastic teams as exemplifying a spirit of partnership and collaboration—not “me” but “we” —to achieve shared goals and objectives within a department, across departments or organization wide. Fantastic teams create consensus, direction and momentum to establish, grow and sustain a flourishing culture.

Flourishing cultures cultivate and demonstrate cohesive teams that effectively engage in passionate, open dialogue. Teams that function well can accomplish more than what any one individual can do on his/her own.


3. Rewards-centered leaders don’t like repeating themselves.

We’ve all heard, vision leaks. We also know that culture drifts.

How do servant leaders keep vision from leaking and culture from drifting? Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. Effective CEOs are also Chief Reminding Officers.

If your WHY is off, then the HOW won’t matter.

 I have a mentor that describes the importance of repeating the vision, mission and values of an organization often. He describes it like speaking to a group in a parade. New people are joining in the middle, some are leaving along the way, and many are getting weary or changing their minds as they are marching. Thus, it is critically important to keep communicating the same important messages over again.

While leaders might be concerned they are disrespecting the audience by repeating a message multiple times, our advice is, “when you feel that way, you are about half done!” Building and maintaining a flourishing workplace culture requires regular communication.


Finally, here’s one more Lencioni gem, to think about:

“If your WHY is off, then the HOW won’t matter.” 

Your workplace culture can flourish and be synonymous with effectiveness, unity and trust of people who want to serve alongside you.

The Bible says, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.” (1 Peter 5:2, NIV)

I’ll take these words to heart (and to work) every day from here on. How about you?

About the Author
This is the author headshot of Al Lopus.

Al Lopus


Best Christian Workplaces Institute

Al Lopus' passion and Best Christian Workplaces Institute's (BCWI) vision is that the Church and Christian-led organizations set the standard as the best, most effective places to work in the world. BCWI is widely known for its faith-based staff engagement survey and organizational culture transformation initiatives. They serve to equip and inspire Christian leaders to create a flourishing workplace.

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