CAL II Grads—My Journey from Command and Control to Servant Leadership

As I took Certified Agile Leadership I in September of 2019, I realized that while I had read the books, I was very much still leading via Command and Control. In a very Agile environment, I was struggling to connect with my employees and really did not like not knowing what was going on in the Teams. How could I fix what I did not know about? I am a problem solver and a fixer. These traits got me into my position. Why were they no longer working?  

Walking out of CAL I, I saw that I needed to change. I needed to get to know the staff on a more personal level. I created Team events monthly so they could see who I really was—and it worked! They started to interact with me and started to come to me when they needed things. We do annual People Surveys, and the survey the next year indeed showed that they now liked and respected me as a manager.

Continuing my CAL Journey

As I started CAL II and got my 360 results, I was pleasantly surprised by the results of the people that reported me. The results of my peers and managers were less impressive but I will get to that later. I then read the comments. I realized that, while I did have their respect and they did really see my value, they still had a bit of fear and they did not believe that I “saw” them. Hmm…

As I worked through “The Discover Your True North” book, I found myself enlightened but frustrated. I knew all of that about myself but what was I supposed to do about it? I had the same frustration as I learned my Saboteurs (Hyper-Achiever, Hyper-Rational, Pleaser and Controller).

A-HA Moments

My “aha” moments came during my coaching sessions. As we discussed my True North, I said that I had two. I had a personal one driven largely by my Pleaser and a professional one driven by my Others. It was pointed out that if I had two, could either be authentic? A valid point but, if that is true, which one was the authentic one? They answer was neither or perhaps both. Thus became my transformation. I needed to stop the Command and Control in my professional life and being an over-pleaser in my personal life. 

Role Change

As all of this was happening, my role at work also was changing. I was promoted from Manager to Director just as I started CAL II. This also way driving me to get “out of the weeds” and into my new role.    My transformation started with small steps. I mentioned in a coaching session that I was going on vacation but that I would be working. My coach suggested I not work and not even take my laptop.     Could I do that? They needed me. What if something happened? It was suggested that I perhaps I empower a few people to ensure that it did not happen. I decided to do it. I empowered a few key people and told them they better call me if something happened, because I do not like surprises.

Ok…so this was a partial success because that was a bit Command and Control sneaking in. I did go on vacation and I did not take my computer or check in with them. I only got one call all week. I had a real vacation. I came back to a few “fires,” but it showed me both that I could get away and that my people could handle it. I took a second trip later in the year and did not need to employ the Command and Control tactics and it went even better. Progress!

My Lessons

Prior to CAL II, I was overworked and tried to manage everything myself. I needed to marry my work self with my personal self. Both needed to change. I found it was easier to fix the work self. I mentioned that I had gotten 360 feedback from my peers and they were clear that while they appreciated that I did handle everything, they wanted me to slow down and explain my thought patterns to them so they could help. My managers appreciated what I did and that I was their problem solver, they saw me burning myself out. My coach asked me to tell her a time I was very successful in my past. As she listened, the analogy she saw was I am best as the Conductor. I am happiest there and seem to get the most out of my people that way. I have tried to use that as my guide.   

While I certainly cannot say I have mastered it yet, I can say that I am making progress. Now, I am self-aware. I have made an effort to slow down and explain things to people. I have spent time training the manager who works for me. I have let go of things that he should really be doing since he is now the manager. I “see” it when I slip into Command and Control. It tends to come out in stressful or time sensitive situations. Perhaps it will sometimes be needed. Sometimes I see it after I do it and have to reach out to the people and apologize. I am working to ensure I get to a calm before entering those situations so that I can stop it before it starts.   

In summary, I have learned that a servant leader must first clearly and simply articulate the organization’s goal. Then, the leader must delegate, empower and inspire the teams to achieve their piece of the goal. Finally, when team members encounter obstacles beyond their ability to resolve, the leader must serve the team by bringing aid and reinforcements to the situation.