Project Management

Servant Leadership: Serve to Be Great

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This blog is about leadership as it applies to projects and project management, but also as it applies to society in general. The bloggers here manage projects and lead teams in both business and volunteer environments, and are all graduates of PMI's Leadership Institute Master Class. We hope to bring insight into the challenges we all experience in our projects and in our day-to-day work, providing helpful tidbits to inspire you to take action to improve—whether in your personal life, your business/work life or on your projects. Read, comment and share your experiences as we share ours. Let’s make the pie bigger! Grab a slice!

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Expert or Leader? / ¿Experto o Líder?

Categories: IT, Leadership

Expert or Leader?

Those of us who graduate in technology careers, as in my case, tend to have a reputation for being independent and autonomous, and we are often e labeled as "NERDs".

Recall that the stereotype of "NERD" represents a very intelligent person, fascinated by knowledge, expert in technical issues and proud of it, but quite isolated from the environment that surrounds him or her, sometimes experiencing social disorders.

I have to admit that in the first years of my career in software development projects, I found many characters with the aforementioned characteristics: recognized experts highly valued for their knowledge, people who concentrated on their work, hoping that no one interrupts them, enjoying their interaction with computers more than with people.

And the more they specialized, it seemed that some traits of these experts were more accentuated, such as, for example:

  • Overvaluing technological aspects.
  • Assuming that others understand their technical vocabulary.
  • Little tolerance for others’ errors.
  • Difficulty in delegating.
  • Fear of knowing less than their collaborators.
  • Preferring to work alone.
  • Difficulty in managing people.
  • Not promoting teamwork.

Does this mean that experts cannot be leaders?

Are “being leader” and “being an expert” mutually exclusive?

Ginger Levin, in the Prologue of the book "IT Project Management - A Geek's Guide to Leadership", authored by Byron A. Love[1], expresses that successful Information Technology professionals pursue continuous technical training to keep up with technological changes. But the pace of technological change leaves them little time to develop their leadership skills.

As a result, many professionals are promoted to leadership roles based on their technical performance and not on their leadership skills - we call this the "Halo" effect. As a result, teams perform inefficiently.

Precisely, the study “State of the Global Workplace”[2], conducted by the consultancy Gallup, states that only 13% of employees worldwide are committed to what they do. It states: "Committed employees work with passion and feel a deep connection with their company, they drive innovation and make the organization move forward".

This means that just one in eight workers is "psychologically committed to their work and willing to make positive contributions to their organizations."

The rest of the employees are either "not committed" (63%) or "actively unengaged" (24%). The latter are unhappy, unproductive and prone to spread negativity to their colleagues.

Gerald M. Weinberg in his book “Becoming a Technical Leader [3], says that since he was young, he made the decision to enter computer career because he did not want to deal with a leadership role.

However, then Weinberg says that his strategy did not give him the expected result: "As I stood out with my technical skills, my colleagues considered me an expert and respected me for it. Soon they began to consult me and ask for advice. They put me in charge of a team. They asked me to teach courses. The more I resisted becoming a leader, the more I became one. Finally, I had to face the question of leadership, despite my desire to avoid it. "

As described by Ginger Levin and Gerald Weinberg, developing leadership skills is necessary, even in professions related to information technology.

Estanislao Bachrach, Doctor in Biological Sciences and author of the Best Sellers “Agilmente” and “En Cambio”, comments in his lectures, which can be seen – in Spanish - on YouTube[4], that in current times “It does not make a difference being technically good. The real difference is made by being creative, empathetic”.

Based on the previous reflections, we can summarize that, as experts in technology we must become aware of the need to also develop our leadership skills and achieve the motivation and commitment of our colleagues, generating collaborative work teams to obtain the required performance in these times of high competition and change.

We must worry about listening and understanding the concerns of our colleagues, developing empathy towards them, focusing on their needs ahead of ours, helping them develop as professionals and as new leaders, that is, developing a servant leadership model.

This way, we will increase the confidence of our employees, while we increase their motivation and, therefore, the efficiency and effectiveness of our teams.

How to start?

First of all, let the fear of "not knowing everything" go, allowing our colleagues to be the experts while we promote a safe environment to allow them to develop with confidence.

Focus on the goals and objectives,not on the technical details, and delegate  to them, trusting that they will do a good job.

Allow yourself and your colleagues to make mistakes and learn from them.

Understand that change requires time and discipline. We will not make it overnight. Start right now, and enjoy the process!

Are you ready to become a servant leader?

[1] Source: Love, Byron A., 2017, “IT Project Management -  A Geek’s Guide to Leadership”, CRC Press.

[2] Source: Study “State of the Global Workplace”, done by Gallup Consulting among 180 million employees in 142 countries.

[3] Source: Weinberg, Gerald M., 2014, “Becoming a Technical Leader”, LeanPub.

[4] Source: Estanislao Bachrach - Creatividad y cambio. Congreso Nacional Argentina CREA 2013. YouTube Canal CREA (in Spanish) -


En Español:

¿Experto o Líder?

Quienes nos graduamos en carreras de tecnología, como es mi caso, solemos tener fama de ser independientes y autónomos e, incluso, muchos somos catalogados de “NERDs”.

Recordemos que el estereotipo de “NERD” representa a una persona muy inteligente, fascinada por el conocimiento, experta en cuestiones técnicas y orgullosa por ello, pero bastante aislada del entorno que lo rodea, llegando a veces a experimentar trastornos sociales.

Tengo que reconocer que, en los primeros años de mi carrera, en proyectos de desarrollo de software, me encontré con muchos personajes con las características mencionadas: expertos reconocidos y muy valorados por sus conocimientos, personas que trabajaban muy concentradas en sus oficinas o puestos de trabajo, tratando que nadie los interrumpa, disfrutando más su interacción con las computadoras que con las personas.

Y cuanto más se especializaban, parecía que más se acentuaban algunas características de estos expertos, como, por ejemplo:

  • Sobre-valorar los aspectos tecnológicos.
  • Suponer que los demás entienden su vocabulario técnico.
  • Poca tolerancia al error propio y de los demás.
  • Dificultad para delegar.
  • Miedo a saber menos que sus colaboradores.
  • Preferir trabajar solos.
  • Dificultad para gestionar personas.
  • No propiciar el trabajo en equipos.

¿Significa esto que los expertos no pueden ser líderes?

¿"Ser líder" y "ser experto" son mutuamente excluyentes?

Ginger Levin, en el Prólogo del libro “IT Project Management -  A Geek’s Guide to Leadership”, de Byron A. Love[1], expresa que los profesionales exitosos de Tecnologías de la Información persiguen capacitación técnica continua para mantenerse actualizados con los cambios tecnológicos. Pero el ritmo de los cambios tecnológicos les deja poco tiempo para desarrollar el liderazgo.

Como resultado de esto, muchos profesionales son promovidos a roles de liderazgo basados en su desempeño técnico y no en sus habilidades de liderazgo. Lo que llamamos el efecto “Halo”. Y, en consecuencia, los equipos muestran un rendimiento ineficiente.

Justamente, de esto habla el estudio “State of the Global Workplace[2], realizado por la consultora Gallup, donde establece que sólo 13% de los empleados, a escala mundial, está comprometido con lo que hace. Lo que quiere decir que apenas uno de cada ocho trabajadores —180 millones de empleados en 142 países en donde se realizó— está “psicológicamente comprometidos con su trabajo y dispuesto a dar contribuciones positivas a sus organizaciones”.

"Los empleados comprometidos trabajan con pasión y sienten una profunda conexión con su empresa. Impulsan la innovación y hacen avanzar la organización", establece el mencionado estudio.

El resto de los empleados, o bien “no está comprometido” (63%) o está “activamente desmotivado” (24%). Estos últimos son infelices, improductivos y propensos a propagar la negatividad a sus colaboradores.

Gerald M. Weinberg en su libro “Becoming a Technical Leader [3], comenta que, desde joven, había tomado la decisión de estudiar una carrera de computación porque no quería lidiar con un rol de líder.

Sin embargo, cuenta luego Weinberg que su estrategia no le dio el resultado esperado: “Como me destacaba con los aspectos técnicos, mis colegas me consideraban un experto y me respetaban por ello. Pronto empezaban a consultarme y pedirme asesoramiento. Me pusieron a cargo de un equipo. Me pidieron que dictara cursos. Cuanto más me resistía a convertirme en líder, más me iba convirtiendo. Finalmente, tuve que enfrentar la cuestión del liderazgo, a pesar de lo que me molestaba.”

Tal como lo describen Ginger Levin y Gerald Weinberg, desarrollar el liderazgo es necesario, también en las profesiones relacionadas con la tecnología de la información.

Estanislao Bachrach, Doctor en Ciencias Biológicas y autor de los Best Sellers “Ágilmente” y “En Cambio”, comenta en sus conferencias, las que se pueden ver en Youtube[4], que en estos tiempos “No hace la diferencia ser bueno técnicamente. La diferencia la hace ser creativo, empático.

En base a las reflexiones anteriores, podemos resumir que, como expertos en tecnología debemos tomar conciencia de la necesidad de desarrollar también nuestras habilidades de liderazgo y lograr la motivación y el compromiso de nuestros colaboradores, generando equipos de trabajo colaborativos para obtener el desempeño requerido en estos tiempos de alta competencia y cambio.

Debemos preocuparnos por escuchar y conocer las preocupaciones de nuestros colaboradores, desarrollar empatía hacia ellos poniendo foco en sus necesidades por delante de las nuestras, ayudando a que se desarrollen como profesionales y como nuevos líderes, es decir, desarrollar un modelo de liderazgo de servicio.

Con esto, aumentando la confianza en nuestros colaboradores, aumentaremos su motivación y, por lo tanto, la eficiencia y eficacia de nuestros equipos de trabajo.

¿Cómo empezar?

En primer lugar, despojarnos del miedo de “no saber todo”, permitiendo que sean nuestros colaboradores los expertos y nosotros quienes les propiciamos el ámbito seguro para que se desenvuelvan con confianza.

Enfocarnos en las metas y los objetivos y no en los detalles técnicos, delegando esto último a nuestros colaboradores.

Permitirnos y permitir a nuestros colaboradores cometer errores, y aprender de ellos.

Entender que los cambios requieren tiempo y disciplina. No lo lograremos de la noche a la mañana. ¡Comenzar ya mismo y disfrutar del proceso!

¿Estás listo para convertirte en un líder servicial?


[1] Fuente: Love, Byron A., 2017, “IT Project Management -  A Geek’s Guide to Leadership”, CRC Press.

[2] Fuente: Estudio “State of the Global Workplace”, realizado por la consultora Gallup entre 180 millones de empleados en 142 países.

[3] Fuente: Weinberg, Gerald M., 2014, “Becoming a Technical Leader”, LeanPub.

[4] Fuente: Estanislao Bachrach - Creatividad y cambio. Congreso Nacional Argentina CREA 2013. YouTube Canal CREA.


Posted by Cecilia Boggi on: November 13, 2017 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Fear or Love?  / ¿Miedo o Amor?

Fear or Love?

Organizational Culture and Servant Leadership

While reading Catalin Teodor’s post “Now, we are free”, I asked myself how many organizations promote a servant culture within the ranks of their leaders.

I believe, as Catalin mentioned, that most leaders feel they lose their power being servant leaders, taking care and being worried about the welfare of their collaborators.

As an example, I recall the CEO of Enel Italian Group, Francesco Starace's response to a student at the Luiss Business School who asked him how to encourage people to adopt changes made in his organization. I understand there is not a servant leadership culture in Enel; on the contrary, their organizational culture is based on fear. Starace's answer to the student was "To achieve change you must inspire fear." He added: "First, you have to locate the ganglia - centers of power – that are contrary to the change, and hit on them to create fear and discomfort." While these comments were repudiated by the international press, there are many organizations that work that way.

On the other hand, and fortunately, there are also stories of great leaders, who have generated extraordinary results in their organizations through leadership centered on the well-being of the people, using a style that has much in common with servant leadership: humility, care and concern for the well-being of others.

Examples of these leaders are Herb Kelleher and Colleen Barrett, who have created low-cost Southwest Airlines in Texas, having had to overcome the attacks of the big airlines who were threatened by them, and that today has more passengers being carried on domestic flights in the United States than any other.

Herb Kelleher and Colleen Barrett's leadership approach is "Employees come first," where leaders take care of employees, make sure they feel good, have what they need to do their jobs, and are supportive of their personal lives.

Just to imagine how strong the organizational culture of Southwest Airlines is, consider that the company's stock is called "LUV".

In addition, we can cite the case of Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, with more than 360 companies, who also imposes a culture in its companies that focus on employees.  In an interview, Branson stated, "If the person who works in your company is 100% proud of the brand, and you give them the tools to do a good job and treat them well, they will be happy."

Branson says that to make sure his employees are treated well, he collects feedback by walking through the cabin and talking directly to staff during Virgin flights.

Another similar and very interesting example is Vineet Nayar, an Indian executive, former CEO of HCL Technologies and author of the best-selling book "Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down", who managed to converse every year with each one of the 89,000 employees, asking them about their problems and giving them answers.

And it is not uncommon for these people-centered companies to have such good results, as studies show that the culture of the organization, and especially how people feel caring the climate of the company, can improve business performance by up to 30%.

Renowned leadership expert and famous TEDx's speaker, Simon Sinek, whom we were lucky enough to hear as a keynote speaker at the PMI North America Leadership Institute Meeting in San Diego in September 2016, expressed that leaders must create an environment of care, protection, and trust so that the employees feel safe. Otherwise, people spend their energy on covering their backs, rather than investing in teamwork and production.

I believe that, if organizations had this in mind, we would have more servant leaders and few"based on fear" leaders.

Who would you rather work for? Caring leaders who increase company profits by keeping their workforce content, happily focusing on customer satisfaction? Or leaders who feel a need to instill fear and crush opposition to their views?

En Español:

¿Miedo o Amor?

La Cultura Organizacional y el Liderazgo Servicial

Mientras leía el post “Now –we are free” de Catalin Teodor, me preguntaba cuántas organizaciones promueven la cultura de servicio en sus líderes.

Creo, tal como menciona Catalin, que la mayoría de los líderes siente que pierde poder siendo el servidor, sirviendo y cuidando a sus colaboradores.

Por ejemplo, recuerdo la respuesta del CEO del Grupo Italiano Enel, Francesco Starace, a un estudiante de la Luiss Business School, que le preguntó cómo lograr que las personas de su organización adopten los cambios. Entiendo que en Enel no hay una cultura de liderazgo servicial, por el contrario, la cultura organizacional está basada en el miedo. La respuesta de Starace al estudiante fue “Para lograr el cambio tienes que inspirar miedo”.  Y agregó el directivo que “Primero hay que localizar los ganglios –centros de poder- que se opongan al cambio y pegarles para crear miedo y disconfort”. Si bien estos comentarios tuvieron repudio por parte de la prensa internacional, hay muchas organizaciones que funcionan de esa forma.

Por otro lado, y por fortuna, también hay historias de grandes líderes, que han generado resultados extraordinarios en sus organizaciones a través un liderazgo centrado en el bienestar de las personas, donde se aprecia un estilo que tiene mucho en común con el liderazgo servicial: humildad, cuidado y preocupación por el bienestar de los demás.

Ejemplos de estos líderes son Herb Kelleger y Colleen Barrett, quienes han creado la compañía aérea low cost de Texas, Southwest Airlines, la cual tuvo que vencer los ataques de las grandes líneas aéreas que veían una competencia amenazante en ellos, y que hoy en día es la compañía aérea que más cantidad de pasajeros transporta en vuelos domésticos en los Estados Unidos.

El enfoque de liderazgo de Herb Kelleger y Colleen Barrett es el de “Los empleados son lo primero”, donde los líderes cuidan a los empleados y se aseguran que se sientan bien y tengan lo que necesitan para poder desarrollar sus trabajos, y también se preocupan de sus vidas personales. 

Cómo será de fuerte la cultura organizacional de Southest Airlines, que la acción de la compañía se llama “LUV”, (cuya pronunciación en inglés es similar a la palabra “love”, que significa “amor”).

Adicionalmente, podemos citar el caso de Richard Branson, fundador del Virgin Group que posee más de 360 compañías, quién también impone una cultura en sus empresas que se centran en los empleados.

En una entrevista, Branson dice que “Si la persona que trabaja en tu compañía está 100% orgullosa de la marca, y tú le brindas las herramientas para hacer un buen trabajo y los tratas bien, ellos serán felices”.

Branson dice que para asegurarse que sus empleados son tratados bien, él mismo va a recoger feedback caminando por la cabina y conversando directamente con el staff durante los vuelos de Virgin.

Otro ejemplo similar y muy interesante es el Vineet Nayar, ejecutivo indio, ex CEO de HCL Technologies, autor del libro best-seller “Empleados Primero, Clientes Segundo: Dando vuelta la Gestión convencional”, quién se las ingeniaba para conversar todos los años con sus 89.000 empleados, preguntándoles sobre sus problemas y dándoles respuestas.

Y no es raro que estas compañías que se centran en las personas tengan tan buenos resultados, ya que los estudios muestran que la cultura de la organización, y en especial como la gente siente el clima, puede afectar hasta el 30% el desempeño del negocio.

El experto en Liderazgo y reconocido orador de TEDx, Simon Sinek, al que tuvimos la suerte de escuchar en la Leadership Institute Meeting de PMI de Norteamérica que se desarrolló en San Diego en Setiembre de 2016, expresó, en aquella ocasión, que los líderes deben generar un ambiente de cuidado, protección y confianza para que sus colaboradores se sientan seguros. De lo contrario, las personas gastan su energía en cubrirse las espaldas, en vez de invertirla en trabajar en equipo y producir.

Creo que, si las organizaciones tuvieran esto en cuenta, tendríamos más líderes serviciales y menos líderes que inspiren miedo.

¿Para quién preferirías trabajar? ¿Para líderes protectores, que aumentan los beneficios de la empresa manteniendo a los empleados contentos, felices, centrándose en la satisfacción del cliente? ¿O para líderes que sienten la necesidad de inculcar miedo y aplastar la oposición a sus puntos de vista?


Posted by Cecilia Boggi on: April 14, 2017 03:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Servant Leadership and Feminine Leadership

Culturally, women have been educated to serve. At least in my generation this has been that way.

From little kids, our games have to do with the care of others. When they give us dolls that we pretend are our children, we play to feed them, dress them, take care of them.

When we play to be a teacher, we develop our protection and care for our fictional or even, sometimes real students.

In my case, I was fortunate to have many siblings, and the students of my games were flesh and blood. My younger siblings were the victims of my first practices in teaching. And, maybe I was a good teacher, or maybe they were very clever, but the truth is that they learned very well and very fast.

And not only in games were women influenced to service to others. Girls also had to help Mom in the housework, help Mom to serve the table, and be on the lookout for everything Dad and brothers needed.

That is to say that we have very much incorporated service to others as part of our "being woman".

I do not want to judge whether this is good or bad.

I do not have enough knowledge to know if we do good or bad in continuing to give dolls to our own daughters and let them play as a teacher.

What I do want to rescue, is that women who grew up in that environment, are naturally prepared to serve.

And, as a result, female leadership has a much to do with servant leadership.

Women leaders often look out for other people, care about their well-being, what they need, and how they can help themselves grow.

Many authors assign to women the characteristics of being more sociable, with a greater tendency for cooperation, inclusion and care of people, forming teams that look like families.

We know that it was Robert K. Greenleaf, who in the 1970s coined the term "servant leader" - helpful leadership or service leadership, inspired by the book "Journey to the East" by Herman Hesse, where a group of travelers Travel and take a servant to perform the less important tasks. The interesting thing is that when the servant leaves them, they cannot continue. Greenleaf finds in this novel that the leadership of the journey was exercised by the servant, in silence, and from his tasks of service to others, he was the true leader of the group.

As stated on the Center for Servant Leadership- Robert K. Greenleaf website, "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... ".

From the above, I think we can say that in general women leaders naturally develop a style of servant leadership as a result of our training of women by women.

To conclude, I would like to recall a phrase from a great woman leader, a servant leader par excellence, Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

"He who does not live to serve, does not serve to live”.

Posted by Cecilia Boggi on: December 21, 2016 02:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

"It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else."

- Erma Bombeck



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