Richard R. Pieper, Sr.
Op Ed

Enough With The Superstars

How Wisconsin Servant Leaders are elevating their communities.

By - Nov 4th, 2017 12:36 pm

The Gary J. Greenfield Administration Building at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Photo by txnetstars [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

The Gary J. Greenfield Administration Building at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Photo by txnetstars [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

You say you want to improve Milwaukee and Wisconsin? The best way is to build on the thriving Servant Leadership movement in the state. Approximately 2300 individuals in six cities in an all-volunteer organization are striving to build community and human capacity in a unique way. These individuals adhere to the concept that a Servant Leader is servant first then aspires to lead. That idea is very different from the person who wants to be a leader first, maybe because of power or acquisition drives.

The network conducts local roundtables and statewide conferences. They are guided by the teachings of Robert Greenleaf, forefather of the Servant Leadership crusade in the U.S. How can the power of Servant Leadership change the paradigm of for and non-profit organizations from top-down management to management that enriches employees at work and throughout their lives?

While its reach is long and deep, let’s stick to three areas of the workplace.

First, consider institutional longevity. Employees who feel genuinely respected and recognized for their efforts are much more likely to contribute more and stay with the organization. The organization thrives. A long term study reported in Inc. Magazine (September 2016), compared the average Return on Investment (ROI) for three categories of management. It found that the average ROI for a Fortune 500 is 10.8%, for a Good to Great Company (Guru Jim Collins designation) at 17.5% and for a Servant Led company, the average was 24%.

Milwaukee and Wisconsin can boast several highly visible Servant Led companies among them: Boelter, Kwik Trip, PieperPower, and Wisconsin Lutheran College. Southwest Airlines, the largest carrier out of Mitchell Field, is a Servant Led company.

Second, the job market is heating up; unemployment is almost non-existent for skilled professionals. If you want to keep knowledgeable employees, pursue Servant Leadership. You can spend valuable resources recruiting or you can respect, empower and serve current employees. No matter the title, this is their life; they want to be given credit for their work and feel as if it matters. People are crushed by top down, know-it-all bosses who nit-pick their efforts or even worse humiliate them privately or publicly

Hello Boss! You can’t possibly know everything even if you have four college degrees. Listen to your employees. Metaphorically speaking, sit in circles rather than lecture hall configuration-all opinions are necessary for success.

Third, if you’re over fifty-you’re over the hill. Your time on the stage, as Shakespeare so eloquently wrote, is running out. Before it does you’re going to deal with The Millennials. Understand that just like your generation (which wasn’t always appreciated by the prior one), they will change the world. You can fight them or learn from them. What they want is surprising and encouraging. Frankly, they are already Servant Leaders without knowing it.

A Millennial himself, Jesse DePinto, Managing Partner of Front Desk, LLC says Millennials seek something greater than themselves. They want autonomy and ownership of their responsibilities. They will look for fulfillment and not hesitate to leave a workplace which doesn’t provide it. They are smart and have figured out that the top down approach has not served us well.

DePinto says they won’t sacrifice family, peace of mind or, heaven forbid, ethics for a big paycheck. Money isn’t their driving force. Their interests include building community, collaboration, coaching not controlling and stewardship. This is a generation traumatized by the economic collapse which began in roughly 2006 to 2009. Many would say that collapse left anxieties with regard to big institutions which remain to this day.

Software development has shown them the teamwork necessity. Agile or Scrum software development uses Servant Leadership. All are trying to achieve a goal with the leader seen only as a facilitator.

Servant Leadership is not a facile program. The journey will be difficult because the “boss” mentality and adulation of super stars is engrained in our culture. Start by going to the website: www.wisconsinservantleadership.orgAlbert Einstein can have the last word: “It is high time the ideal of success should be replaced with the ideal of service.”

Come join us at the semi-annual conference Nov. 7th, “Building the Engaged Enterprise”

Morning Session Free:

Afternoon Workshop:

By Richard R. Pieper, Sr. Non-Executive Chairman, PPC Partners, Inc.

Categories: Business, Op-Ed

3 thoughts on “Op Ed: Enough With The Superstars”

  1. fightingbobfan says:

    “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.”

    Hmmm? Who does the latter sound like?

  2. preserveart says:

    Over fifty -over the hill?
    Apparently, there is no respect for years of hard work and acquired wisdom, and no reason to share that experience with the new “servant leaders”.
    No need or desire for mentorship?
    I would also say that each generation contributes to changes in the world by drawing on the experiences, good and bad, of the previous generations.

  3. Pat Falotico says:

    I think the provocative tone of Dick’s message to the boomers (I am one) in the workplace is intentional and serves to awaken each of us to the fact that the next generation servant-leaders are already here and we have an obligation to help them grow and become their best selves.

    Interestingly enough, we had the ability to watch three generations work with and learn from eachother at our recent Greenleaf Servant Leadership Conference. Boomers, Xs & Millennials serving eachother. Each offering gifts to the others. Each offering care and compassion to the others. Each growing through the others.

    It’s quite beautiful when that happens. Let’s hold out a hand to offer support across the generations. It will be a better society because of it!

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