Serving It Up From the Bottom Line

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This week celebrates the annual Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner, founder Spencer Kaitz, the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications, Women in Cable & Telecommunications and the Emma L. Bowen Foundation for Minority Interest in Media. What characteristics embody such leadership and vision to create an entire week every year dedicated to “diversity,” and for honoring such distinguished groups?

In 1970, Robert Greenleaf, a retired AT&T Corp. executive, coined a term that even corporations today aspire to embody: “The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons: Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”

And from this point in 1970 and continuing to today, “servant-leadership” began a quiet revolution in the way in which we view and practice leadership.

Servant-leaders are:

  • Bolstering their organizations, their people and foster the quality of life inside their companies with high morals and ethics;
  • Focusing on the needs of others;
  • Giving selflessly while mentoring, coaching and encouraging development; and
  • Listening and building a sense of community.

Ken Blanchard, author of The One-Minute Manager, said “servant-leadership is all about making goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help your people. In that situation, they don’t work for you — you work for them.”

You don’t have to be chairman of the board or a senior level executive or have people report to you to be a servant-leader. This means it transcends title and company type, you can be a senior-level executive or a manager or an assistant; you can work for an MSO, programmer, vendor, or a nonprofit state association such as the California Cable & Telecommunications Association or an organization, much like Kaitz, NAMIC or WICT. Certainly many of the servant-leaders today can be found in the Emma L. Bowen Foundation’s internship program, WICT and NAMIC’s mentoring programs and throughout Kaitz’s initiatives, to name a few.

Great leaders are everywhere within our industry and perhaps the most exciting fact is many of them have yet to be recognized publicly. People such as Craig Simon from Playboy Enterprises Inc., Sean Riley from Fox Cable Networks Group, Karen Kranick from Cox Communications Inc., Tom Stevens from Turner Entertainment, Derek Hanson from Charter Media, Annett Edgar from Stampede Fullfillment and More, Toni Erickson Knight from Worldlink Media, Melanie Woods from Showtime Networks Inc., Ida Tagliente from Adelphia Communications Corp., Margo Cross from TVN Entertainment Inc., Erin Farrell from CRN Networks, Jennifer Randolph from Court TV and Stacy Melle from NBC Universal, are in our midst right here right now shaping people’s lives and being dedicated to servicing others.

They embody what Jim Collins in his acclaimed book Good to Great called “Level 5 Leaders.” They are ambitious within their companies, set up their successors for success, are fanatically results-driven, look to their people to attribute their success, act on determination, rely on inspired standards, will settle for nothing less than setting the standard of building an enduring company and look in the mirror to take full responsibility when things go poorly. They appreciate the unique abilities in others and foster their growth.

As this week has been affectionately known as “Cable Hell Week” (now more diplomatically termed “Diversity Week”), perhaps this year we can pause to see it in a new light. It’s a time when we can celebrate the unique abilities of others, to be in service to those all around us.

In a recent Multichannel News Forum, Rainbow Entertainment Services president Kathleen Dore said: “Cable companies and programmers are the great innovators of this era, and together we need to maximize the potential we have for the future.”

What continues to catapult this industry is a relentless commitment to putting a diverse workforce in place to propel the cause for innovation, results and service. And that takes a diversity of talents, skill sets, mind sets and abilities. The true foundation of leadership is about relationships, service and sacrifice. It’s not complex, it’s based on respect, responsibility and caring of the people around you.

As you stand next to someone this week at the NAMIC conference or at the Walter Kaitz dinner simply ask yourself: “If I was in service to the person standing next to me, what would I say? What would I do? What actions would I take to insure their success?”

If you get stuck, lean over and simply talk to your neighbor. After all, they too could be a servant-leader in the making!

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