Fusion Leadership is not philanthropic. It’s about creating world-class results for your organization through fusing teams together around a shared cause or purpose, thereby helping others find meaning in their jobs.
Many leaders have embraced servant leadership, a concept that has been around for a very long time but that was coined, famously, by Robert Greenleaf in a 1970 essay entitled “The Servant as Leader.” In it, Greenleaf wrote this:
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. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. . . . The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types.
While I think of myself as a servant leader, I struggle with the notion of magnanimous service as I understand that to be a core tenet of servant leadership. For example, in his essay “The Case for Servant Leadership,” originally published by the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership in 2008, Kent McKeith states that servant leaders “don’t worry about their own personal status or prestige.”
Let’s be real. I don’t believe we humans are wired that way. While I aspire to the ideal of placing others first, the highest-functioning people I know, on their best days, place the welfare of others as an equal priority to their own self interests. The highly competitive, career-challenging demands of Western capitalism draw on the self-serving survival instincts programmed into our psyches by our ancestors. And that’s fine, as long as our actions also serve to advance the interests of our colleagues and our society. Here lies the key point: When our selfish actions cross the line of diminishing the effectiveness of our team, we commit the ultimate failure in leadership.
As cofounder and chief executive officer of Integra Telecom, I experienced the magic that’s created when a workforce of several thousand people commits to a common cause. But the magic didn’t just manifest—well—magically. It was hard work. We reaped the rewards—both those that fill the bank account and those that feed the soul—by making strategic moves, with my management team, through continued focus on our purpose (a.k.a. Fusion Leadership).
And that’s the difference between Fusion Leadership and Servant Leadership–Fusion Leadership acknowledges the inherent and genuine struggle between rewarding our selfish ego and rewarding our organization, or the collective ego. What’s more, it also recognizes that, in this selfish-ego-versus-collective-ego struggle, the act of prioritizing the needs of the organization is not a selfless act. It is ultimately very self-serving, which is okay. As Henry Ford so aptly stated, “if everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”