October 5th, 2013

BOOKS – The Servant

A Simple Story About The True Essence of Leadership

booklook2This short, gem of a read is a story about a seemingly successful businessman whose career and personal life are actually spiraling in the wrong direction — downward. He is failing horribly in all of his leadership roles (father, boss, coach) and somewhat in denial about his situation. To right his ship, he agrees — though rather reluctantly — to enroll in a leadership program at a remote monastery.

And so unfolds the enchanting parable of John Daily, whose week-long retreat in the care of a Wall Street legend turned Benedictine monk changes his life and sets him on the road to redemption. What he learns from the former C-level executive is simple yet profound: The true foundation of leadership is not power, but authority, which is built upon relationships and service. While power can be bought and sold, taken and given away, authority is about who you are as a person, your character, and the influence you’ve built with people.

I find it hard to believe I missed this absorbing tale by leadership training consultant James C. Hunter when it was first published in 1998. The principles in Hunter’s narrative are neither novel nor complicated, but do require a special skill set. They are simply based on strengthening the bonds of respect, responsibility and caring with the people around us, particularly those we are entrusted to lead.

‘Anyone wanting to be the leader must first be the servant. If you want to lead you must serve.’ –Jesus Christ

Len Hoffman, the former Fortune 500 executive now known as Brother Simeon, teaches the class on leadership and imparts invaluable insights to John and his fellow retreat goers. True leadership — building influence with others — “…is available to everyone but requires a tremendous extension of oneself. Sadly, most of those in leadership positions shy away from the great effort required,” says Brother Simeon.

Brother Simeon points out that “…many if not most of the people promoted into leadership positions these days are promoted because of their technical or task related abilities.”  While these attributes are important, “The truly great leaders are skilled at building relationships.”

I highly recommend The Servant to both those aspiring to positions of leadership as well as those who have already arrived. In fact, it is often the latter, intoxicated by the power inherent in their leadership roles, who forget what it’s really all about — serving and nurturing those we are responsible for leading.

‘…effective leadership is based upon service to others and a heedlessness of self.’ –James M. Strock  



The Servant: A Simple Story About The True Essence of Leadership

James C. Hunter

Prima Publishing


Paperback, 187 pages

ISBN: 0-7615-1487-2

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