by Marcel Schwantes, Inc. Magazine, 12/22/17.
Over the last three decades, servant leadership has risen from a noble and ethical leadership ideology stuck in religious worldviews to the very principles of how the most successful companies on the planet operate and profit.
Yet, if you’re not sufficiently informed of its modern day behaviors and practices as espoused by leading authors, thought-leaders, and scholars, a false perception may lead you astray. Typically, what you think servant leadership is…is usually the opposite of what it truly is.
Take a cue from the world’s top brands. They have grasped the immense power that is generated from putting people (employees) ahead of profits through shared values like authenticity, intrapreneurship, freedom and ownership, community, and collaboration. And servant leaders, naturally, have leveraged this emotional currency as the only sustainable model for the future of work.
It is clear that these wildly successful companies–some of which are regularly featured in Fortune magazine’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for having high trust, high employee engagement, and low turnover–are guided by visionary leaders who walk the talk of servant leadership.
The Chosen 10
As I researched the most relevant CEOs to compile into a Top 10 servant leadership list, my biggest challenge was narrowing it down to just 10! Truth is, they are all relevant; they’ve all made a positive impact on business, society, and the future of work.
In the end, while you may disagree with my narrow subjectivity, I chose CEOs and founders who I felt depicted a cross-representation of leaders from larger companies and various industries that would appeal to multi-generations. I also picked CEOs who maintain a broader view of servant leadership and its impact on the greater good through humanitarian efforts. Some are newcomers; others are dinosaurs of the movement.
In fairness to my selection process, I think it would be honorable to include those that would have made a longer list–perhaps a Top 20 List for next time. My honorary mentions are: Michael Williams, president and CEO, Community Hospital Corporation; Joel Manby, CEO, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment; Dan Cathy, CEO, Chick-fil-A; Greg Sandfort, CEO, Tractor Supply Company; John Hope Bryant, Founder and CEO, Operation HOPE; and Howard Schultz, CEO at Starbucks, who is stepping down on April 2.
Feel free to add your own entries in the comments or on Twitter using #ServantLeadership and “My Choice for CEO.”
No. 10: Sylvia Metayer, CEO of Sodexo Corporate Services Worldwide
Metayer is the sole non-American executive on this list. Holding French-British-Canadian citizenship, she leads Sodexo’s Corporate Services segment–the worldwide leader in improving the quality of life of 75 million people. In 2016, for the fifth year in a row, Sodexo was among Fortune’s “World’s Most Admired Companies.”
I chose her to kick off this list because of her division’s clear focus, under her guidance, on understanding how human beings thrive at work. This is evidenced by their massive 2017 Global Workforce Trends report. Through their research, they identified six dimensions of quality of life on which Sodexo’s services have a direct impact:
- The Physical Environment …