Greenleaf Conference on Servant Leadership: Featured Panel

[My first experience with semi-live blogging! Forgive the gaping holes and sentence fragments. I welcome constructive correction and addition.]

Kelvin Redd introduces the panel: Bill Todd, Maj. General Charles Hood, Jr., and Michelle Nunn.

Up first: Bill Todd.

Mr. Todd notes that Jim Collins actually wanted to use the term ‘servant leadership’ instead of ‘Level 5 leadership’ in Good to Great, but his staff talked him out of it.

-Offers Robert Woodruff, CEO of Coca-Cola, an example of a servant leader. Woodruff wanted everyone who touched Coca-Cola in the supply process to make money – to aid families through creating wealth.

-Cited a leader (I missed the name!) who noted the way someone played golf – not only following the rules, but the way they treated the support staff – as an indicator of a person’s fit in the organization.

-Warren Buffett – “Culture trumps strategy, every time.” Sometimes rephrased: “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

-Cites Chick-Fil-A and Waffle House as examples of organizations led by servant leaders. The eccentricity that makes the companies unique precludes either company making a public stock offering. Waffle House requires executives to work in an actual store on various holidays to intentionally put managers in the working man’s shoes.

“Anonymous contributions are some of the most profound [indicators] of servant leadership we can find.” – Bill Todd

Major General Charles Hood, Jr.

A long and distinguished career; currently works with the Kiwanis Key Leader Program. High school students, take note of this tremendous opportunity!

General Hood reviews significant events in his life as foreshadowing his future as a servant leader.

Gen. Hood worked for the Marriotts [the hotel dynasty] for six years during his youth, noting the owners’ willingness to work at any level – including dishwashing – “to make the product great.”

When he began his military service, the expectation (for African-Americans) was to serve for twenty years and retire as a Major. There was no precedent for reaching higher rank.

When a lieutenant, Gen. Hood was counseled to “get out of the Army” because “he was a nice guy.” He took it upon himself to prove that a “nice guy” could succeed – that the responsibilities of command did not preclude treating others with respect.

“I was fortunate that my commanders allowed me to command the way I wanted to command, and not be the leader first, but to take care of my soldiers.”

When he attended the Army War College, the introductory assessments indicated that he was a “Type B introvert.” “I was over with the touchy-feely group, and my wife and everyone else was on the other side….they had to wait for the people from Myers-Briggs to come and explain my condition.”

When given opportunity to attend graduate school, Gen. Hood chose to study human relations (not public administration) because he would have to deal with people in the Army. “The real leader has to deal with people.”

When commanding the Virgin Islands National Guard: “I [saw] my job coming here as ‘to grow my replacement.'”

Michelle Nunn

“[It has been] my great privilege throughout my career [to help people serve others].”

Hands on Atlanta – Mrs. Nunn was there at beginning (six projects, directly funded by volunteers doing the projects); now 25,000 projects and an international scope.

Service to others: present in almost all faith traditions as foundational building block of cultures and societies

“When you think about the history of our nation, many of those iconic leaders we admire were servant leaders.” Mrs. Nunn pointed to the Extra Mile, a new national monument honoring servant leaders in Washington, D.C.

Individual benefits of service: makes us happier; involvement in community service greater indicator of long life than obesity or smoking.

Pointing to millenial generation as already volunteering more than any other generation, Mrs. Nunn said, “We are at the beginning of this brave new world of service and possibility….not bound by geography…remarkable possibilities for a new set of servant leadership.”

Mrs. Nunn offered microvolunteering, specifically The Extraordinaries, as an example of service and leadership driven by the millenial generation.

Questions were accepted from the floor.

Mrs. Nunn spoke of her role as servant leader growing organically from her work as executive director for Hands On Atlanta (“when I was earning eight dollars an hour for ten hours a week”).

Mr. Todd: [paraphrase] “While I don’t do the thing that Emory does [as far as teaching and treating], I could enable those who did.”

General Hood once suggested that the Code of Military Justice include not only consequences for disrespect from lower to higher rank, but disrespect from higher to lower rank.

Question (paraphrase): “What kind of advice would you recommend to someone moving forward after being burned out in a service situation?”

Gen. Hood indicated that he shared this challenge. Sometimes our lives reach a point where we just need to make a change. Perhaps a project is no longer for us, but for someone else. This shouldn’t be a cause for discouragement, or an indication that we were doing something wrong – but simply that change was necessary.

Mr. Todd: “The further we move along in service, the further we get away from the recipient of the intended service.” He mentioned a grade school teacher who concluded a career not with the principalship, but by teaching kindergarten, as an example of returning to what first draws us to a specific service.

Question: how does servant leadership work in a crisis situation?

General Hood: Develop ownership prior to the emergency; when the emergency comes, you will have the [sense of responsibility] to deal with the problem.”

Mr. Todd noted Honore’s response after Katrina – first, put down the rifles – these are not our enemies, but our friends. Next, he turned to a young mother with a child, looked at the child, realized the child was dehydrated, and handed the baby to a nearby Major, instructing him to take the child and the mother to Shreveport for treatment. In doing so, he set a tremendous example of their real priorities – not to police a potential combat zone, but to aid the victims of that tragedy.

Mrs. Nunn noted the community response to that and other tragedies, and how similar examples were set by the communities. (I missed too much of that while typing.)

What were formative experiences to your life?

Gen. Hood talked about Gen. Becton’s appearance after Hood’s unit failed a nuclear preparation test. Bectin did not come to berate him, but to find out what he needed to succeed – which empowered him to lead his unit to pass the test thirty days later.

Mr. Redd concluded the discussion.


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