#PTonICE Daily Show – Thursday, July 20th, 2023 – Servant leadership: what it is & how to get better at

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, ICE COO Alan Fredendall introduces the concept of servant leadership in the workplace, discusses the four main characteristics of servant leaders, research supporting the use of servant leadersihp at work, and the intersection of “burnout” & lack of servant leadership at work. Take a listen to today’s episode or check out the transcription below.

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Good morning, PT on ICE Daily Show. Happy Thursday morning. I hope your morning is off to a great start. My name is Alan. I’m happy to be your host today here on the Daily Show here on Leadership Thursday. We talk all things leadership, small business management, practice ownership, that sort of thing. Leadership Thursday also means it is Gut Check Thursday. This week’s Gut Check Thursday. I tested this this past Tuesday. Pretty simple, but doesn’t mean it’s easy. Ten rounds for time, ten calories on a fan bike, that assault bike or eco bike for gentlemen and seven calories for ladies, followed by ten pull ups. So the challenge here is going to be to keep that bike as fast as you can while trying as big of a sets of pull ups as you possibly can. Just a warning, that’s a lot of pull ups. If you’re not used to that much pull up volume, surely you can grind through this and get through that many pull ups, but it’s probably going to leave you quite beat up. I know myself today, my lats, my biceps a little bit are sore. So if you’re not used to that kind of volume, maybe scale that down, maybe eight rounds for time, maybe seven rounds for time, maybe even five or six rounds for time. Maybe keep the calories on the bike, but cut the pull ups in half, maybe ten, seven cows on the bike, five pull ups, ten rounds, something like that. And overall, try to keep it between 15 to 20 minutes aiming for maybe a minute to two minutes per round or faster. So again, pretty simple. Get off the bike, do some pull ups, go back to the bike. You’re going to hit a wall on the pull ups eventually, just a matter of how long you can hang on before those start to fall apart. Some courses coming your way next weekend, the weekend of July 29th and July 30th. We have upper body dry needling down in Dallas, Fort Worth area. That course has two seats left out in Denver. We have Alexis with our ice, ice, ice pelvic live course that same weekend, two chances to catch older adult live either with Alex Germano up in Boise, Idaho, or with Christina Prevot down in Watkinsville, Georgia. That’s about 90 minutes east of Atlanta out towards the Athens area. And then extremity management will be in Madison, Wisconsin that weekend with Lindsay. The weekend of August 5th and 6th, again, dry needling will be out on the road with Paul, this time lower body in Greenville, South Carolina at Onward Greenville. Older adult live will again be on the road with Alex Germano, this time in Frederick, Maryland. The weekend of August 12th and 13th, dry needling will again be out on the road, this time lower body with Paul out in Salt Lake City. Extremity with Lindsay on the road again, this time in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Total spine thrust will be up in Bellingham, Washington with Justin Dunaway. And then you have another chance at older adult live, this time with all of the faculty and teaching assistants at the older adult live summit that will be in Lexington, Kentucky at Stronger Life. I will be there for that one. That’s going to be a great weekend. So if you can make it down to Lexington that weekend, you should. Finally, the weekend of August 19th and 20th, again, dry needling will be on the road with Paul, lower body in Phoenix. Extremity will again be on the road with Lindsay, this time in Fremont, Nebraska. That’s right outside of Omaha. Older adult live will be in Bedford, Texas right outside of Dallas or up in Minnetonka, Minnesota. That will be right outside of the Minneapolis area. So those are the courses coming your way in the next month from ICE. Today’s topic, servant leadership. We have touched on this a little bit before, but we’re going to get really nitty gritty today and we’re going to more importantly talk about some of the research supporting the use of servant leadership in practice. So servant leadership, what is it, how to get better at it. We’re going to define it. We’re going to list the characteristics. We’re going to give some examples of high quality servant leadership and talk about the research supporting the use of servant leadership. So first things first, what is servant leadership? You may have heard of this. You may have seen some books maybe in the airport, in the business section or something like that about servant leadership. It is a leadership principle founded in 1970 by a gentleman by the name of Robert Greenleaf. And it was an essay basically published called The Servant as Leader. And the idea behind servant leadership is leaders are essentially individuals that look and act no different than any other member of the work team of no matter what you’re doing, you are hauling garbage away. You are a physical therapist. You work on a computer doing data entry or software development or something that servant leaders, true servant leaders are yes, maybe the owner of the company. Yes, in charge of a team of people, but they’re also on the ground still doing the day to that composes the work of whatever the business is trying to accomplish, whatever product or service they are trying to offer. Team members then should be easily relatable to the leader because they are essentially doing the same thing. Maybe the servant leader is not doing as much of it, but they have certainly started in whatever work they are now leading and they are still doing some or most parts of it day to day. The whole idea here is that when someone is not a servant leader, we don’t necessarily notice when someone is a servant leader, but we certainly notice when someone is not a servant leader that when their fellow servant, when their fellow teammates, employee, colleague, however you want to define yourself is absent, when that person is gone, the team itself, the work that the team does overall feels less organized, less functional. That day to day looking at a group of people, you might not be able to figure out who the leader is because again, they are doing the day to day work of the organization much like everybody else that works there, but when they are not on the job, things just don’t function as well. They keep things organized, they understand a lot more details of the work to be done because usually they are people who have spent a lot of their time doing it. They may have been, for example, physical therapists in practice for 5, 10, 15, 20 years. They may have all of the knowledge of the back end work of the business and when they are not there, yes, work continues, but it’s just not as productive. Work gets a little bit slower, it gets a little bit harder to do and overall the idea behind servant leadership is that having the servant leader there makes everyone else’s job just a little bit easier, not only by performing their share of the work, but by helping everybody else stay organized and on task as well. This is in stark contrast to almost every other business philosophy and leadership philosophy Most businesses are running kind of a leader first mindset where the goal of the leader is to squeeze productivity out of people. This is obviously very common in physical therapy, but it’s common across business in general of oftentimes the leader of a physical therapy clinic of a large company may not even be a physical therapist or may not even know the work that happens at that organization. They are just there to essentially be a boss, to crack the whip, to squeeze productivity out of people, to make sure deadlines get met and things like deliverables get delivered and otherwise kind of push the organization along even if it’s not functioning well and even if the people in the trenches doing the work may think, boy, what would really help right now is an extra set of hands. That doesn’t happen in a leader first culture, but it does happen in a servant leadership culture. So let’s talk about characteristics of servant leadership. So there are four main characteristics. The first is that a servant leader always approaches work with an unselfish mindset. That is to say, there is no task beneath a servant leader. If the leader expects the toilets to be cleaned at the start of each day, if it’s not done, it is not beneath the servant leader to go in and clean the toilets themselves. They still practice whatever profession they are leading. They are still a practicing physical therapist, a practicing software developer, whatever. And they still perform a lot of the mundane day to day tasks that not only do they expect of others, but are necessary for the organization to function and thrive. You will find these people still cleaning windows, cleaning up those tiny little pieces of toilet paper that get ripped off the roll and in bathrooms. You will still find them treating patients. You will still find them doing their documentation. You will still find them doing all the things that they expect the people that work for them to do on a daily basis. I think often here at ICE of I’m very familiar with what it’s like to spend an entire day or maybe multiple days with a delayed flight or a canceled flight or trying to drive across the country to make it to teach to a course of understanding what it’s like to do the really boring, mundane, kind of agonizing tasks day to day of a job, of driving across the country to bring equipment to make a course happen. That is stuff that I have done in the past. That is stuff that I still do. And I am able to relate to when that happens to others who work here at ICE because I have done it myself. Again, that is in stark contrast to the way that a lot of organizations are run where the person in charge may not have any idea of the actual work that goes on in the company. They are just there to boss people around and ask for reports and that sort of thing. Essentially, approaching work with an unselfish mindset is saying that I know exactly what it’s like to do your job and I’m also not above doing it and I probably still do a lot of it. The second main characteristic of a servant leader is that they encourage diversity of thought. That the leader’s ideas aren’t necessarily best just because they are the leader’s ideas, but because they come from the leader after that they have incorporated everybody else’s thoughts, feedback, and opinions of everybody on the team. That large decisions should be team decisions. Large decisions should be team decisions. The third characteristic of a servant leader is that they create a culture of trust. That they are not some lofty, unapproachable individual that maybe works in a different state that maybe now works in the Caribbean from some island or something because they’re so rich and they jet in every now and again to collect their checks or yell at some people or fire somebody or something like that. That they are just a regular person that still comes to work every day, that still gets up, still gets their kids breakfast and gets them on the bus to school and still comes in to work just like everybody else on the job site. They don’t just come to work to boss people around, they come to work to work and to guide others to be more productive in their work, not to just come and make new rules and punish people and then go hit the golf course. The last and maybe the most important characteristic of servant leadership is that servant leaders foster leadership in other people. That they recognize that true long-term success, true long-term sustainability at a job, true long-term productive, profitable work comes from building a successful, often multi-generational team of yes, in the moment I’m thinking of tasks that need to be accomplished and deadlines that need to be met and costs and expenses, but I’m also in the back of my mind thinking who here is next going to sit in my seat and I’m trying to give that person advice and guidance and mentorship so that someday they can also be a leader within the company and that treating everybody within the company as a potential leader not only empowers them, builds a culture of trust, but really fosters leadership in them in a way that when the leader happens to not be there, things don’t fall apart of like oops, we can’t even unlock the door to let patients in for the day because the boss is out of town today until noon, of fostering leadership in others and having others take over some of the leadership tasks of the job. Most businesses are only created with the goal of growing them big enough to sell them and essentially just to acquire wealth, to be sold at some point for a profit. There is often not a lot that goes into the fostering of other leaders to take over the company to keep the company continuing running. It’s often thought of I hope I can make this go long enough so that I can sell it someday and get a big golden paycheck and then it’s somebody else’s problem. Not many people approach work with the mindset of who’s going to take over my position after me and continue to grow this thing into a successful multi-generational business. So that’s what servant leadership is. The characteristics of a servant leader. What is some really nice research that supports the incorporation of servant leadership in the workforce? So none of these papers are going to be found in physical therapy journals or fitness journals. These are all going to be from managerial science journals. Really really interesting stuff that you really you can’t put down that you can’t keep flipping the page. But I want to share three articles with you that I hope hit home. The first is research on reduced employee turnover nutrition. This comes from a paper from Cash App and rang rang a car. Sorry if I butchered that. This is from the Journal of the Reviews of managerial science. Thrilling. This is from 2014 looking at servant leadership in the workforce and finding that when servant leadership was put into place the direct effects of servant leadership on employee perception results in reduced job turnover. That employees report that the workplace is seen as a positive place to be. That employees report having higher levels of pride in the work that they perform when they’re on the job. That they feel they are rewarded accordingly and that they genuinely this is a direct quote generally enjoy the company of the people that they work with. It’s a fun enjoyable place to be. It’s great when there’s a lot of synergy between coworkers and it’s not just a place where you clock in and you clock out. Servant leaders model the behavior expected of others and that is very rewarding to everybody else that works there and to the organization as a whole. The second paper I want to cite is on life improvements outside of the workforce. So everything that’s not work what changes in somebody’s life when they work in a job where the leader is a servant leader. This is from Zimmerle, Holzinger and Richter from 2007 from the Journal of Corporate Ethics and Corporate Governance. Again another page turner. This paper reported overall reduced levels of stress and an improved ability to spend time with friends and family and meet the needs of the family unit at home outside of the workplace when the workplace was run by a servant leader. Subject reported that when their work needs felt met they had more bandwidth, more mental energy to support others outside of work, to support their spouse, to support their children, to support other members of their family and friends outside of the workforce. And just concluding that when a servant leader is in charge work is not this kind of hellacious place where all we’re trying to do is make it to the end of the day. That it’s just this block of time on the calendar that we have to grind through and suffer through and it’s really kind of this hellacious experience. Subject reported that we leave work feeling maybe at least not as drained as maybe other positions but maybe even leaving work for the day feeling energized, having more time, more energy to go do other more enjoyable stuff. Again spend time with friends, spend time with family members that when work itself is enjoyable and rewarding it’s a sustainable pace that allows both work life and family and outside work life to really function and thrive. Our last paper here is that servant led workplaces are sustainable workplaces. This is from Chukotai and colleagues in 2017 from the Journal of Applied Research in Qualities of Life and finding that servant leaders carefully manage work with the use of deadlines but also with rewards and even distribution of work allocation and regular performance evaluations so people have an idea of how they’re doing, how to get better and they don’t feel like they’re doing an uneven amount of work for less than their fair share of pay. There’s a lot on social media now about burnout and imposter syndrome and all this stuff and how to just get through your work day and the truth of the matter is most of us feel burned out, most of us feel overwhelmed because we’re able to perceive that we’re doing an uneven amount of work for an uneven amount of pay right. We are doing more work than our bosses do for less money than they make. As soon as your brain perceives that you start to get a really disgruntled feeling in your mind and that is the nucleus that turns into burnout, that turns into maybe I don’t want to be a physical therapist anymore, maybe I want to sell real estate. That is palpable in the workplace. As soon as you walk into a business you can tell when the people there are kind of just staring straight forward, they have that dead look in their eyes and you can tell that they are not happy to be there, they are not thriving. That servant led workplaces are focused on the results, not the effort of telling people to get all of their work, get X amount of work done immediately and the rationale is because I said so. For example, very common in physical therapy right, get all of your documentation done by the end of the day. Why? Well because I said so and I’m in charge. Maybe the biller has already gone home for the day and there’s no way that that documentation is going to turn into claims anyways. So what the hell does it matter that I get this done by 6pm if it’s not going to be looked at until tomorrow morning or if it’s Friday it’s not going to be looked at until Monday? Why am I at work until 8pm or 10pm at home doing my notes when they’re just going to sit unaddressed for a day, two days, three days? That is kind of a boss led work environment versus a servant led work environment that says hey, get X amount of work done by Y date and you will get Z reward right? Get all of your documentation by the next pay period and that’s it right? I don’t care when you do it, I don’t care if you do it a little bit every day, I don’t care if you wait until Sunday night and do all of it at once. Like I literally don’t care about the effort that it takes to get the work done, I just care about the results of the work, that the work is high quality and then it gets done. I don’t care how you practice physical therapy, as long as patients get better, they leave physical therapy feeling better, they are healthier, fitter, stronger people leaving physical therapy, I don’t care how you got there right? So servant led workplaces are focused on results and not just doing effort to say that effort has been done. This is objective, measurable and repeatable led work. We can track this stuff, yes, if we care about data and reports, but ultimately again we care about the results and not the effort. And so ask yourself, am I burned out because I believe that I’m not skilled enough, that I’m not competent enough as a clinician or am I really burned out because I work in a boss led workplace and not a servant led workplace? And I think you’ll find that most of you considering leaving the profession, considering changing jobs are really aware in the back of your head that you are not working for a servant leader. You may be working for somebody who doesn’t even live in your state, right? You may be working for somebody who’s not even a physical therapist. The owners of your company may be investment bankers from New York City or Chicago or LA and you are just going to work to generate money so they can go on really nice vacations and have a cabin and a yacht. And again, the moment your brain starts to perceive that, that’s really where kind of that disgruntled feeling comes in. And I would urge you to look around that there are many clinics out there, there are many workplaces out there that are led by servant leaders and you really just need to tell yourself that you’re not going to settle until you find that place where you come in, work is maybe not necessarily overly energizing, but it certainly doesn’t take so much out of you that you feel drained for the day, that you have to go home at 5 p.m. and go to bed for the day and all you can do is lay on the couch and watch TV until you fall asleep. A really high quality workplace led by a servant leader can be a fun environment, it can be an energizing environment, it can leave you with enough energy in the tank to where you can go home and do whatever you want with the rest of your day and the rest of your life and that you don’t feel like you’re just doing work to get work done, to check the box on things like reports and to produce data for somebody to look at and rubber stamp it. So again, don’t settle until you find that nice servant led workplace. So servant leadership, what is it? It is a servant mindset, it is somebody who comes to work with the mindset of they have done that job before, they’re likely still doing that job, they’re able to help you get better at doing it so you don’t have to spend as much physical and mental energy doing it as well, right? They are often great mentors, they lead their workplace in a way that makes it more organized, that makes it easier to work at and maybe even makes it a fun energizing place to work at. They embody four main characteristics, they approach work with an unselfish mindset, no task is beneath them, they encourage diversity of thought, they have meetings where they ask for your thoughts and opinions on decisions, again large decisions are team decisions, they create a large culture of trust, they’re not this lofty individual living in Costa Rica, they are standing next to you, they are in the other room treating a patient and that they foster leadership in others, they challenge you to take over some of the reins the whole idea is creating a sustainable multi-generational business. Know that there’s a lot of research supporting this, that it often leads to less turnover, it leads to higher quality of life outside of work for employees and then overall it leads to a sustainable work environment where people don’t feel that quote unquote burnout feeling. And recognize that burnout is often not remedied by taking more vacations or reading more It’s found by working for people who are servant leaders, of not being afraid to move yourself in a position or maybe even move yourself geographically to find a really high quality servant led workplace. They are out there, you just need to tell yourself that you’re not going to settle until you find it. So servant leadership, I hope that was helpful, I hope you have fun with Gut Check Thursday, if you’re going to be at a live course this weekend I hope you have a fantastic time, have a great Thursday, have a great weekend, bye everybody.

22:20 OUTRO
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