Why leaders need to serve

How capable are your leaders? How can you help them prepare to serve?

I’m so disappointed by last night’s England football result in the World Cup, but full of admiration for the impeccable leadership qualities displayed by Coach Gareth Southgate. His genuineness and way he embraces each player is something to be commended.

Here is a leader who has humbled himself to serve and who clearly commands the utmost respect of all around him.

I find myself silently willing him on when I see him talking to the team or having those one-to-one moments with the players.

His behaviour after last night’s match with Croatia was exemplary. He looked each player in the eye individually then gathered them close to him in an embrace which not only consoled but congratulated.

The Guardian newspaper has described him as: “Being blessed with the rare gift – in football, especially – of emotional intelligence. That is what makes him emblematic of a modern, outward-looking man. He trusts his players. He encourages them to take responsibility for their own actions. He helps them to tell their own stories. To be known both to themselves and those around them.”

Today I have a special guest post for you by Angie Main, on the topic of leadership. She specialises in organisational development and employee engagement, developing and delivering creative yet practical programmes to help people engage with new ways of working.

Angie spent 17 years at a senior leader level within financial services before moving to interim and consultancy work across a range of sectors. She’s a Gallup Strengths coach who enjoys helping folks become the leaders others deserve.

Angie advocates Servant Leadership, has two rescue dogs, a passion for lighthouses and the Northumberland coast where she lives. I had the pleasure of welcoming her to an All Things IC Masterclass last year and invited her to write for my blog so you can find out more about what she does as it fascinates me and I know you’ll enjoy it too. You can find her on Twitter @NorthXNorthE.

Jargon buster: Servant Leadership is a practical and proven approach to leadership that balances a concern for results with relationships. It’s all about a shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’, removing self-interest to inspire trust.

I’ll hand you over…

Why leaders need to prepare to serve

I help organisations help their folks with transformational change, the ask is often to adopt Lean or Agile ways of working. I offer a range of support from crafting and executing communication strategies, (servant) leadership development, large-scale experiential college events, learning & strengths coaching.

My purpose i.e. what gets me out of bed is to help folks have a better (positive and productive) day at work.

It’s great when firms invest heavily in transformation – understanding that investment in enablers, a clear and coherent strategy backed up with leaders role modeling desired change and strong consequence management are all needed to come together Venn-like to release benefit but wins can be achieved looking closer to home at the business as usual activity of leaders.

Despite injections of resource, well-crafted vision statements and intent without exception the change I’m asked to support succeeds or fails almost exclusively to one factor – the quality of leadership, put simply leadership is the greatest enabler or impediment.

Leadership capability is my start and end point and I keep front of mind Gallup’s insight sharing that:

“70% of the variance in employee engagement is directly attributable to manager effectiveness”

My role is to serve leaders growth in confidence and capability.

What’s the focus?

Leadership is about ensuring good outcomes through the application of influence. I believe leadership is a skill that can be taught and learned, communication skills are no different.

In my experience, far too little is done to equip leaders with sustainable key skills, rather those partnering helicopter in to supply expertise.

Communication needs care and attention to get it right, let’s bust here and now the myth that those skilled at communicating are the most extrovert or charismatic.

Leaders skilled at communication are motivated by creating clarity and purpose for others – both lead to good outcomes.

Leaders skilled at communication state clearly what’s needed and expected and maintain a clear and steady flow of information and should be treated as what good looks like – they understand that there should be little to no ‘ say-do ‘ gap. Folks smell rhetoric a mile off, BS even quicker.

Practice makes perfect

Too often I find leaders lack skill and confidence and haven’t practiced being good communicators – we can be harsh on folks and we expect these skills as a given.

Serve other leaders by helping them get really good at this stuff and park the need to be the hero:

  • Listening – you’ll serve people better when you listen intently. Listen with the intention to have your mind change.
  • Learning – possessing the ability to take up, and act on new information and to facilitate this in others. Be honest about what you don’t know.
  • Collaboration – gather diverse views to solve complex issues, together. Understand when collaboration is needed and not.
  • Communication – manage a clear and steady stream of consistent information. Do not feed decision debt.

Too often when I ask senior leaders to talk to me about leadership , creating dialogue or leveraging employee engagement they wheel out friendly HR and comms folk to deal with the people stuff.

My advice when planning that next programme and auditing comms capability is to look at leadership capability too. I offer fuller advice and practical communication tips in this ‘Express Yourself‘ leaders guide to communication.

You can see it below and download your own copy of the Express Yourself Guide.

Post author: Angie Main.

Thank you Angie. What do you think about what you’ve read? As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or you can Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog about leadership

Thank you for stopping by,


First published on the All Things IC blog 12 July 2018.


All Things IC Online Masterclasses


Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How can we help?

All Things IC helps practitioners around the globe increase their knowledge of internal communication.

There’s a variety of ways we can support you including trainingconsultancy and mentoring to boost your skills and confidence.

Or visit the shop to see everything we offer.

Who has hired All Things IC?

Clients say working with All Things IC leaves them feeling inspired, motivated, full of ideas and ready to turn plans into action.

We’re proud to have been invited to work with, and advise, some of the world’s leading brands.

Get in touch...

Would you like to work with All Things IC? Do get in touch below. Please note we only accept guest post ideas from in-house IC pros who have read the blogging guidelines.

Asking for advertising, back links or pitching services? We do not offer these and will not reply. Thank you.