Updated: Jul 26
To begin, can you tell readers a little bit about your background? And how you got interested in Servant Leadership (and leadership in general)?
When speaking at a conference not too long ago, I asked the attendees if they ever had a bad boss. Almost the entire auditorium of almost 400 people raised their hands. Seeing all those raised arms reminded me of a lawn overrun by dandelions. Having a bad boss early in my adult work life was my motivation to enter into the noble and rewarding role of leadership. Once there, I wanted to make a positive difference, but I struggled to be the leader that I felt I was inside while trying to navigate organizational rules and politics. This eventually led me down the path of servant leadership.
What is it about Servant Leadership that drew you to the practice?
I tell my story about discovering servant leadership in my book “Servant Leadership from The Middle”, so I don’t want to give that away. But what I can say is that I believe people instinctively know what good and right looks and feels like. We know deep inside that is what we must pursue, promote, learn, and do more of. Discovering servant leadership was a calling for me. Good and right guided my life and leadership path in the direction of servant leadership.
How did you get the idea to write SERVANT LEADERSHIP FROM THE MIDDLE?
About halfway through my MASL degree, I had to write a descriptive paper. That paper’s theme was to make an inanimate object appear to be human for the reader; to give that object human characteristics and emotions. After writing that paper, something clicked inside me and my writing personality came out. I was very proud of that paper; so much so that I broke out of my introverted self and became the first person to raise my hand to offer to read my paper out loud to the class. Every paper I wrote after that contained more of my own thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Although I had been struggling to come up with an idea for my final master’s project, that creative paper was the catalyst that eventually led me to the idea to write a book to help other new and emerging leaders, like myself, to help navigate their early years of life and leadership.
What was your writing process for SERVANT LEADERSHIP FROM THE MIDDLE? What was the best part of writing the book? The most challenging?
Although I had two years to contemplate and write notes for my book, when my colloquium class came I had four months to complete the project. Ironically, my two years of accumulated notes were for naught; and I started my book from scratch. My writing process consisted of every day after coming home from work I would eat supper and spend time with my wife. Then, at 7 pm, I went into my study and would work on the book for 4-5 hours (often more) every night during the four-month course. If you do the math, this equates to approximately 458 hours. So I actually worked the equivalent of twelve 40-hour work weeks. I essentially took on a second job to complete my book in this time frame.
The best part of writing the book was learning about myself. As I read what I wrote, I would reflect on the concepts I was writing about. I noticed at times that what I wrote and thought, and what I was living, were not always the same. So that provided opportunities to re-assess myself, my thoughts, and my actions. Seeing my thoughts in writing made me think more deeply about myself and my life. Writing helped me to become a better person and leader.
The most challenging part was when I would get writer's block. When I did, I only had to remember who I was writing for and why I was writing. That always set me back on track.
What advice do you have for young people who want to become leaders in school or at work but don’t exactly know where to start?
I will offer the only advice that I give leaders in the preface section of “Servant Leadership from the Middle”, that successful leadership starts and ends with the heart. The life and leadership moments I write about in the book reflect that there is no difference between how we act and react to things and people at work, at home, or in our community. Relationships are the core and there is no separation of these three, and there is no other or better way.
Who are some of your influences? Both for writing and for leadership?
For writing, I am influenced by many authors. I believe writers need to read as many different and diverse books and subjects to discover their own writing likes and dislikes. This includes reading both old and current literature. The more one reads, the more one develops their own style of writing that is specific to the values of their audience.
My first leadership influence, of course, is Robert Greenleaf, the founder of servant leadership. My second influence is Ricardo Semler. Much like Greenleaf, he led from his heart and his gut to create a better workplace despite adverse circumstances.
You’re a first-time author (CONGRATULATIONS!! 🎉 ), what are some of the things that surprised you about the process of publishing a book?
That publishing is not the end of the book writing process, and that is a good thing! The writer has to be open to advice and criticism. Just like in life, we need to hear honest opinions and perspectives to be better and grow. A good publisher, like Fulcrum, provides this and only wants what is best for your book. Fulcrum’s publishing team has left me with the realization that the final product of your book is truly the result of a team effort. My entire publishing journey has been a rewarding and uplifting experience that I hope other possible authors can be inspired by.
What do you think would be helpful for other first-time authors to know about publishing?
First-time authors might get confused about the publishing process. It was an uncertain time for me when my book went to the editor for review. When your book goes to review, keep an open mind; your publisher and editor only have you and your books best interests in mind. Think of the editing/publishing process in this way. When we go to the doctor to have our blood work checked, afterward there’s a discussion about the results. Your book is a life form that you’re bringing into this world. The publisher is your caregiver. You need that open relationship to make your product as healthy as possible. Work together with your publisher to create the best version of your work.
What are your hopes for SERVANT LEADERSHIP FROM THE MIDDLE?
This is the easiest question to answer. Life’s’ purpose is to create more life. My expectation for my book is to reach as many people and organizations as possible with its message. I believe leaders in the middle are underrated and occupy one of the most important positions in any organization. The scope of the community they affect on a daily basis impacts the culture, life, and leadership of that organization.
What are you reading these days?
Current open books are “Women & Leadership” by Kellerman and Rhode, “Positive Organizational Scholarship” by Cameron, Dutton, and Quinn, and “6 Months to 6 Figures” by Voogd.