Before talking to Mitzi VanVoorhis, I had envisioned Servant Leaders like the lone wolf – one person in an organization who accidentally stumbles upon the philosophy, and then that person starts a small revolution within their team or with their followers. Talking to Mitzi about her experience with Servant Leadership opened my eyes to how powerful the philosophy can be when it’s shared. You’ll learn in this episode how Servant Leadership spread at McConkey Auction Group because Servant Leadership wasn’t kept secret. And, when it was shared, the team was reluctant in the beginning as so much of it felt touchy feely. However, over time, they have created a company of Servant Leaders. From the top down, the philosophy has spread, and it has changed the company’s culture. Here’s how they got started:

  • They brought in an expert. See Episode 1 with Dr. Shann Ray Ferch.
  • They started with their executive leadership. Then moved to middle managers.
  • Their Servant Leadership training included workshops, reading, and watching movies.

What were the results?

  • A happier, more productive workplace
  • Healthy conflict and ways of expressing feelings in the workplace
  • More respect, kindness and humility among staff

Mitzi brought honesty and warmth to our talk, and I appreciated that she acknowledged that when she first became a leader, she often led from a place of fear and insecurity. She was the leader who thought she needed to know everything or have all the answers. I think so many new leaders experience this phenomena as they transition from being the doer to the leader. Mitzi’s honesty resonated with me because I also experienced some of that as I stepped into my first major leadership role, and built out a team. As the team became more autonomous, I found myself experiencing self-doubt. Where did I fit in this picture? At times, I also felt jealous. They got to do all the fun work, while my job was mostly spent managing the day to day needs of the team. The more you love the work, the harder it is to give that away. However, over time, I realized that my job was to shepherd and steward my team in whatever ways they needed me, and I found that I still got to be involved with the work, but in a different, more big picture way (that quite frankly, I’m way better at anyway). Over time, I leaned into my natural state of nurturing, and I found so much joy in that.

What would it look like at your organization if Servant Leadership was a loud initiative instead of a quiet movement?

Servant Marketing Snacks from Episode 3