Sitting in the CxO’s office, I was stunned. He just asked me to covertly backup another person’s data before he fired them. This was the fourth senior level manager he would fire, less than a year after hiring them. The cycle was now complete for a third time, as his entire department had turned over three times in just under two years. As the technology leader for the organization, one of my unfortunate responsibilities was supporting these practices. This leadership style, or lack thereof, was in stark contrast to other methods I experienced to achieve success. That moment was the start of a long, winding path leading to the creation of The Modern Servant Leader website.
After experiencing success under many different circumstances and leadership styles, I recognized a key differentiation between leadership styles I supported and those I did not – sustainability. Although I did not yet know the name for it, I recognized servant leaders achieved the greatest success with an ability to sustain that success. In contrast, non-serving leaders used fear and borrowed from the future to obtain success in the short-term, often resulting in low morale, high turnover and limited sustainability.