Decision Vision Episode 80: Should I Become a Servant Leader? – An Interview with Mark Bachmann, McCracken Alliance Partners
What does being a servant leader mean? How does servant leadership really work in managing an organization? Mark Bachmann joins host Mike Blake to discuss these questions and much more. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Mark Bachmann, McCracken Alliance Partners
McCracken Alliance Partners (MAP) is focused on providing financial leadership services including full time or interim CFO’s as well as experienced professionals to lead critical strategic initiatives or transactions. MAP is comprised of experienced public and private company CFO’s whose skills and knowledge can create immediate value. Additionally, some of the partners are experienced executive coaches providing relevant, actionable counsel to existing CFO’s.
Mark R. Bachmann has a broad business background including both Division President and CFO of a public company. Currently, Mr. Bachmann is a Partner with McCracken Alliance Partners, providing financial leadership services as well as President of The Bachmann Group where he is an Executive Coach to CFOs to help them to accelerate their performance.
Previously, Mr. Bachmann was Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Zep Inc. ($700 million publicly traded chemical company) from 2005 until 2015 and retired when Zep was sold to a private equity firm.
During his tenure as CFO for Zep, Mr. Bachmann was instrumental in the spin-off of Zep from its parent, (Acuity Brands, Inc. NYSE:AYI) and prepared the Company to go public in the fall of 2007. After the spin-off, Mr. Bachmann played a critical role in restructuring the business post-recession and developing its growth strategy. Beginning in 2010, Mr. Bachmann led the company through seven acquisitions with total revenues of $235 million that reshaped the portfolio. He refinanced the business twice ensuring liquidity to support its strategies. Mr. Bachmann was also critical in selling the company in 2015 by supporting the marketing, due diligence and financing processes. He led the company through crisis communications and business continuity plan following a fire at a major production facility and was the primary individual negotiating a $50+ million settlement with the insurance companies.
Prior to becoming CFO at Zep, Mr. Bachmann held a number of other executive leadership positions in Operations and Finance within the Company or its predecessor parent companies.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Bachmann was associated with The Quaker Oats Company ($6 billion publicly-traded Consumer Packaged Goods Company) where he held nine different financial management positions of increasing responsibility including both domestic and international assignments. He began his career as an auditor at Deloitte.
Mr. Bachmann is currently serving on the Board of Trustees, Treasurer and on the Development and Endowment Committees of his religious institution. He is serves on the Operating Committee as the immediate Past President of CEO Netweavers, a not-for-profit professional organization in Atlanta, as well as on the Leadership Council for Junior Achievement of Atlanta.
Mr. Bachmann has invested significant time and effort in leadership development and strengthening the finance function within the companies he has led, as well as in the community. He was Executive in Residence at Georgia State University and on their Board of Advisors for the Master of Science in Finance Program as well as previously served as Co-Chairman of its CFO Council. Mr. Bachmann is a frequent lecturer at universities and professional organizations. He has and continues to mentor and coach a number of finance professionals.
Mr. Bachmann received his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from the University of Illinois and his MBA from Northwestern University.
Michael Blake, Brady Ware & Company
Michael Blake is Host of the “Decision Vision” podcast series and a Director of Brady Ware & Company. Mike specializes in the valuation of intellectual property-driven firms, such as software firms, aerospace firms and professional services firms, most frequently in the capacity as a transaction advisor, helping clients obtain great outcomes from complex transaction opportunities. He is also a specialist in the appraisal of intellectual properties as stand-alone assets, such as software, trade secrets, and patents.
Mike has been a full-time business appraiser for 13 years with public accounting firms, boutique business appraisal firms, and an owner of his own firm. Prior to that, he spent 8 years in venture capital and investment banking, including transactions in the U.S., Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Brady Ware & Company
Brady Ware & Company is a regional full-service accounting and advisory firm which helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality. Brady Ware services clients nationally from its offices in Alpharetta, GA; Columbus and Dayton, OH; and Richmond, IN. The firm is growth minded, committed to the regions in which they operate, and most importantly, they make significant investments in their people and service offerings to meet the changing financial needs of those they are privileged to serve. The firm is dedicated to providing results that make a difference for its clients.
Decision Vision Podcast Series
“Decision Vision” is a podcast covering topics and issues facing small business owners and connecting them with solutions from leading experts. This series is presented by Brady Ware & Company. If you are a decision maker for a small business, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us at email@example.com and make sure to listen to every Thursday to the “Decision Vision” podcast.
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Intro: [00:00:01] Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions. Brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional full service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.
Mike Blake: [00:00:21] And welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owner’s or executive’s perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.
Mike Blake: [00:00:39] My name is Mike Blake and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a director at Brady Ware & Company, a full service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio. With offices in Dayton, Columbus, Ohio, Richmond, Indiana, and Alpharetta, Georgia. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast, which is being recorded in Atlanta for social distancing protocols. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast aggregator. And please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.
Mike Blake: [00:01:05] Today’s topic is, should I become a servant leader? And we’ll get into definitions in a moment. But, you know, as we record this on July 31st, which means it’ll probably show up sometime around Labor Day if our current publishing schedule holds, I think we’re being confronted right now with the notion of servant leadership every day. And I don’t want to make this a political discussion. It’s not going to be a political discussion, if I have anything to say about it.
Mike Blake: [00:01:44] But nevertheless, we’re being confronted right now, in particular in the private sector, so what is the role of the company in society? And, you know, the notion of shareholder primacy in the company, the thesis of why a company should exist. Meaning that, companies exist to provide return for shareholders – financial return to shareholders, full stop, period, end of discussion is now, I think, being widely challenged. And there’s been a challenge to it, I think, that’s been bubbling up the last ten years as millennials come of age and start to become not only highly sought after employees and contributors to companies and organizations, but now are becoming executives and owners of organizations.
Mike Blake: [00:02:41] By the way, if you want to feel old, have the kid of one of your friends ask to connect with you on LinkedIn. I don’t think anything has made me feel older. And I turned 50 a couple of months ago. That was not as devastating as the kid of one of my peers connected with me on LinkedIn. Not Facebook, not Instagram, but on LinkedIn. That was jarring.
Mike Blake: [00:03:04] But anyway, the notion of what leadership is right now, I think, is being redefined in real time or at least is being re-examined on a society and an economy wide level in real time. Now, does that mean that everybody’s going to change? No, I don’t think so. Does that mean, I think, our entire society is going to be upended and we’re going to move from whatever dominant leadership style we think we have. I think it’s actually fragmented. But whatever leadership style you think prevails in society, is that going to be converted wholesale into something else? No, I don’t.
Mike Blake: [00:03:46] But I do think what’s happening is that alternative leadership approaches are necessarily being given a second look, for no other reason, because with the exception of close family and friends, this is assuming that you’re in the camp that thinks that social distancing is important. And again, if it’s not important to you, okay. But be safe. But for those of us for whom it is important, it means that almost every relationship we have, especially business relationship, has been disrupted. It is harder to sell. It is harder to hire, to recruit, to train, to motivate, to inspire. And the one thing that, I think, we know for certain is that what worked and what we were comfortable with on January 31st, 2020 is not going to be the same thing that we’re going to be – we need to be comfortable with and effective on July 31st, 2020. And so, that’s why I think this topic is of particular interest and is timely today.
Mike Blake: [00:05:04] And joining us today is a person that I think is a terrific example of a servant leader and is a person who’s going to tell you through his own story. It didn’t necessarily come out of the chute as it certainly is. There’s an origin story there that, I think, we’re all going to benefit from. Because if we didn’t consider ourselves servant leaders or maybe we’re not even familiar with the term until very recently, it’s not too late to become that if that resonates with the kind of leader that you want to be and you need to be, given the new environment that may or may not return to what we enjoyed, again, about a-half-a-year ago.
Mike Blake: [00:05:51] So, joining us today is Mark Bachmann, who is a partner at MacCracken Alliance Partners. And they are focused on providing financial leadership services, including full time or interim CFOs, as well as experienced professionals to lead critical strategic initiatives or transactions. MAP is comprised of experienced public and private company CFOs, whose skills and knowledge can create immediate value. Additionally, some of the partners are experienced executive coaches providing relevant, actionable counsel to existing chief financial officers.
Mike Blake: [00:06:20] Mark has a broad business background, including both division president and CFO of a public company. He’s currently, as I said, a partner with MacCracken Alliance Partners. And he’s also an executive coach to chief financial officers to help them accelerate their performance. Mark demonstrates strong business acumen with solid conceptual and analytical thinking to lead enterprise critical initiatives. He is a highly effective, trusted advisor in working with CEOs, boards, senior management teams, and strategic partners with a collaborative and participatory management style, common stable influence, and sharp focus on value creation and organizational integrity.
Mike Blake: [00:06:58] Mark is currently serving on the Board of Trustees as treasurer and on the Development Endowment Committees of his religious institution. He serves on the operating committee and is the immediate past president of CEO Netweavers – of which I’m a member and how we know each other – a not-for-profit professional organization in Atlanta as well as on the Leadership Council for Junior Achievement of Atlanta. Mark earned his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from the University of Illinois and his MBA from Northwestern University. Mark, welcome to the program.
Mark Bachmann: [00:07:29] Thank you, Mike. You did a nice job there. I appreciate it.
Mike Blake: [00:07:33] Thanks. I hope I got the right bio. Because, otherwise, we’ll have to record this again. Given the accounting industry, I’d be remiss. You don’t want a job as a tax accountant right now, do you?
Mark Bachmann: [00:07:45] I did that for one busy season – and that was enough – many years ago.
Mike Blake: [00:07:51] That’s enough for a lot of people. I thank goodness that I’m not an accountant, even though I work for an accounting firm. That, you know, seeing how people went through or go through a busy season and then this year where it, basically, got dragged out through July. They are better people than I am. I’ll just leave it at that.
Mark Bachmann: [00:08:10] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t even do my own taxes anymore.
Mike Blake: [00:08:14] There you go. And neither do I, so I’m not in jail. So, Mark, let’s start with a basic definition, because I don’t think everybody necessarily knows what the term servant leadership means. How would you define it?
Mark Bachmann: [00:08:30] So, I think the phrase servant leadership probably goes back to the early 1970s when a gentleman by the name of Robert Greenleaf wrote an essay entitled The Servant as Leader. I think he goes on to say that as a philosophy and a set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals and build better organizations. But it’s really the focus that the servant leader is servant first, and they want to serve, and serve first.
Mark Bachmann: [00:09:04] And that’s sharply different than a leader who considers them a leader first. Perhaps maybe a need to, you know, meet a power drive or to acquire material possessions. You know, it’s not quite the same, but I’ve also sort of thought of it as being similar as paying it forward. I mean, where you’re doing good for someone else without the expectation of anything in return.
Mike Blake: [00:09:35] So, how would you characterize servant leadership in contrast to other kinds of leadership? That’s a semi-unfair question. But assuming you even can put names in other kinds of leadership, how does that differ?
Mark Bachmann: [00:09:54] Well, I mean, as you said there, Mike, there are a lot of different styles of leadership, whether you’re someone who might be considered an autocratic type of leader, and we can think of people like that, or authoritarian in their approach. But I think, you know, it depends sort of on how you think about sharing of power and how decisions are made and whether you’re thinking yourself of being that leader first or servant first. And sort of, I think, the servant leader shares power and puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. As opposed to, maybe, other forms of leadership where, you know, you’re thinking you’re the most important person in the room and you’re driven by that power or that ego.
Mike Blake: [00:10:49] And why is servant leadership effective? Why is that mentality of kind of working outside in, if you will, if you think of an egocentric thought process? What are the benefits of that kind of approach?
Mark Bachmann: [00:11:08] Well, I mean, I think some would say that you’re getting greater engagement of the people who are in your organization, whether it’s a for-profit or not-for-profit, that if you’re thinking of them first and trying to serve them first. That you’re getting a greater engagement, you’re getting then, you know, greater creativity, enthusiasm. You know, you probably are going to end up with lower turnover.
Mark Bachmann: [00:11:44] And so, the thought is if you have an engaged group as opposed to, you know, maybe a style where you’re telling and dictating what shall be done and not giving a lot of leeway for ideas or voices to be heard, you know, once again, I think different situations also call for different leadership. I don’t necessarily think that one style is necessarily right for all situations either.
Mike Blake: [00:12:15] You know, that’s an interesting point. I’m going to think about that. That’s a very thought provoking comment, but I think you’re right that servant leadership may not necessarily be the optimal in every situation.
Mark Bachmann: [00:12:31] Well think about it this way, I mean, you know, would you say that the military is a servant leadership organization?
Mike Blake: [00:12:40] I would say only partially, and I say that because one of my favorite leadership books is a book called It’s Your Ship by a former Navy Captain named Michael Abramoff. And I thought there were instances of servant leadership in terms of team building and loyalty and unit cohesion. But I think I see what you’re getting at. In a combat scenario, you can only throw yourself on a grenade once, right? And so, it may not be practical in a combat scenario to embrace a servant leadership kind of mentality.
Mike Blake: [00:13:18] So, I’d like to hear your origin story. We’ve sort of chatted about it in passing, but even I don’t know the details. But tell us about what led you to a servant leadership mentality?
Mark Bachmann: [00:13:40] Well, honestly, I went through the majority of my career without ever hearing the word servant leadership or really knowing what it was. You know, if I look back over my 35 plus years of being in business and, primarily, in large public corporations, I worked for probably over 20 different managers. Some were pretty good. Others, frankly, were pretty bad. Through that, I developed my own leadership style, probably more closely aligned with what might be referred to as a democratic style. I would frequently ask people, “What do you think?” And seek people’s opinions before reaching a final decision.
Mark Bachmann: [00:14:24] And I enjoyed, as I went up through the ranks, the increased responsibility. But honestly, I don’t think I was personally driven by power or ego. I was just trying to do what was best for the organization. And as I became a manager of people, I wanted to help them become the best they could be. I was interested in their development and providing feedback and mentoring them as they progressed. And what were their goals and how could I help achieve them. And, honestly, when I have conversations with people and if they want to pursue and sort of leave my group and go to another part of the organization or even leave the organization, I would say fine. Helping them be their best, if you will. So, that was sort of always at the core of sort of what I thought was right.
Mark Bachmann: [00:15:12] But it’s really been since I’ve retired from a full time position that I’ve increased my focus and, frankly, became aware of servant leadership. I really felt blessed to have achieved both the personal and professional success and accomplishments that I wanted to give back. I mean, really help others. And I found this organization that you mentioned that we’re both members of, CEO Netweavers. And for our listeners, it’s a group of current and former CEOs, along with a select group of trusted advisers and C-suite executives. And the organization is based on the principles of servant leadership. And we provide service to our members by trying to help them achieve their goals and aspirations, as well as serving the community through a few of the outreach programs.
Mark Bachmann: [00:16:03] And so, you know, as I got to know this organization – and we both know Jim Dupree and I want to thank him. He’s one of the founders of the group and he encouraged me to get involved. And so, I first got involved by leading the mentoring program there. And then, he asked if I would become treasurer and so I became treasurer. And then, I had the privilege of, last year, being its president. And now, I lead the Governance Nominating Committee. So, I really saw that as a great vehicle to be with other like-minded professionals who really want to give and really not having an expectation of anything in return. And so, really, that was my introduction to servant leadership and, really, has been very rewarding.
Mike Blake: [00:17:00] Well, you mentioned CEO Netweavers, I don’t mind giving them a shameless plug. It is the only civic organization to which I belong. And there’s good reason for that. You learn so much there and there is a camaraderie. And the agenda of every meeting is how can we help somebody else in some form or another. And if you’re into that, you know, we also have a chapter in Houston. But it is a terrific organization. It’s a focus for that. And hopefully, over time, there’ll be more of them because it is such a great focus, not just to exercise servant leadership, but how to become better at it.
Mike Blake: [00:17:53] So, you know, you mentioned you came to serve in leadership, kind of as you retire. But let’s take a listener that is not retired. Let’s take a listener that’s in the middle of their career, is doing what they’re doing. You know, a cynic might say, “Well, you can’t afford to be a servant leadership. You’ve got to grab what you can when you can, because once that opportunity is over, it’s over.” And my question to you is, in your experience, you know, for somebody that is, again, at that stage of their career, are they potentially giving something up in exchange for adopting a servant leadership mentality, maybe just because they feel it’s spiritually rewarding or it just makes their life feel more purposeful, whatever it is, or is that a false choice?
Mark Bachmann: [00:18:51] Well, you know, I’m not sure that it’s a false choice and that you’re giving things up. I mean, I think once again, it’s how are you choosing to lead and whose interests are you motivated by? And while trying to – you know, and you lead in and I’m sure we’ll probably get to it around shareholder value and the role of the corporation. I mean, in business, you know, you have a set of objectives, the organization has a set of objectives. And there’s many ways in how do you try to align people to accomplish those objectives. And I think servant leadership is just trying to shift the power or shift the focus a little bit on how you try to execute.
Mark Bachmann: [00:19:50] And so, you know, if people are unable to drive success through that or feel like they have to have a more command and control to ensure success, they’ll fight with, you know, letting go a bit and and shifting the focus, I’m sure. But I don’t know that it’s necessarily a tradeoff for everyone.
Mike Blake: [00:20:20] Well, you know, I did want to cover exactly that question as how servant leadership and shareholder value creation, whether they can coexist. And if so, what does that look like? So, you know, you’re a finance guy. You’re a guy that is used to making hard-nosed decisions. You’ve been in a leadership role in a public company. I’m sure you’ve had your compensation tied very clearly to stock performance. So, I think you’re in a great position to offer an informed point of view on this. You know, can servant leadership and a shareholder value mentality coexist?
Mark Bachmann: [00:21:04] Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, being a servant leader doesn’t mean you don’t care about creating shareholder value. You know, last year, I think it was the Business Roundtable announced a new statement of what the purpose of a corporation was. And previously, it was solely to maximize shareholder value. But, you know, I think they got over 150 or 170 CEOs who committed to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders. And so, they include customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders.
Mark Bachmann: [00:21:42] And they had a section I was reading about the employee where they’re talking about investing in our employees. And they say it starts with compensating them fairly and providing them important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education, so they develop new skills and that they foster diversity, inclusion, dignity, and respect.
Mark Bachmann: [00:22:06] Now, you know, when I take it to my own perspective, having to make those trade offs, I learned an incredibly valuable lesson when I was the division president of Zep’s retail business. We had a huge opportunity to launch a whole new product line at Walmart. And we had 40 days to do it. And as a result, I pushed the organization really hard. And I placed so much focus on the customer that I lost sight of the employee. You know, you’re talking about the largest retailer in the world. You have this opportunity and you have 40 days to get it done.
Mark Bachmann: [00:22:51] As a result, our employees launched a union organizing campaign. And so, I invested a considerable amount of time to listen to our employee’s concerns and was able to build trust with them. You know, they thought I would have learned from this and would address it. And so, we ended up defeating the union two to one, which was fabulous. And I made a lot of changes. And ever since I consciously needed to have balance. The need of multiple stakeholders that being skewed towards the customer or the shareholder at the expense of the employee wasn’t the right formula for success.
Mark Bachmann: [00:23:40] And I guess the last thing I’d say, Mike, is I know that there have been studies out there that have shown a positive correlation between employee engagement and shareholder returns. And, you know, when you had engaged employees, you will improve retention, thereby reducing turnover. And, you know, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a whole bunch – an organization has a whole bunch of servant leaders, you know, in there. But clearly if you have an engaged workforce, you know, if you think about these surveys, like, great places to work or whatever, I’m sure there’s a much greater understanding of the needs of the employees than just the shareholders.
Mike Blake: [00:24:35] You know, I wonder if that scenario that you described matches up with one of the concepts in the seven habits of highly effective people, where there’s this notion of, in effect, an emotional bank account. You have a particular goal where in order to accomplish a goal – in your case, in 40 days – you just have to go into a flat out sprint with your knees hurt, you’re out of breath, your feet hurt too bad. You just got to figure it out.
Mike Blake: [00:25:04] Failure, if it’s a non-option, it’s certainly a bad option. You know, if there have been, maybe, some sort of capital in the emotional bank account before that, then maybe driving for that sprint then becomes a little bit easier. So, it’s not just about kind of doing the right thing in the moment. But, also, I think it’s building capital where, you know, you’re kind of the first to give, so that when you’re asking somebody to give in return, they have a sense that it’s a relationship with some semblance of equity, too.
Mark Bachmann: [00:25:49] I absolutely believe that you need to build goodwill. You know, you need to have – as a leader, you need to have emotional intelligence, EQ as well as IQ in terms of being able to motivate your workforce, understand what their needs are. So that, you know, in these times, you could tap on them and ask them to go, you know, sort of all out.
Mike Blake: [00:26:28] So, as you decided that you wanted to embrace servant leadership, were there any new skills that you felt like you had to either acquire or develop further in order to be effective in that kind of mode?
Mark Bachmann: [00:26:48] Well, I mean, I think I’m not sure that there are new skills per se. But if I think about some of the key skills that are important in servant leadership, so you might then tune them up or continue to be more aware. I mean, you really – you know, first and foremost, it’s all about listening. You know, you really need to understand that you’re going to need to understand what the needs of others are, what are they truly saying, what are they truly needing in that.
Mark Bachmann: [00:27:26] I think also, you know, a healthy understanding of yourself, self-awareness, to really understand how you are managing your emotions, your behaviors, and how what you do might impact others. And then, you know, having a commitment that you want to help other people grow and develop. I think those are all sort of important. And, you know, sort of checking in on your ability to persuade rather than sort of using authority to get that.
Mark Bachmann: [00:28:10] And, you know, I will tell you, that’s been a really key learning for me working in non-profit and volunteer organizations, on the operating committee of the CEO Netweavers, or on my synagogue board. You know, I don’t necessarily have the authority, but I need to encourage people. And I’m trying to sell an idea or whatever and having other people, you know, follow. Leadership is also creating followership, right? And so, aspiring to those people’s interests and inclinations.
Mike Blake: [00:29:03] So, I’d like to share with you, at least, a couple of things I think I’ve had to develop to become a more effective servant leader. And one of those two things is proactivity. I think a lot of leadership – and even your description of the 40 day dash and unionization, I think, is actually somewhat illustrative of this – is, I think, a major characteristic of servant leadership is being proactive and addressing or trying to address people’s needs or wants before they’re ever even articulated to you.
Mike Blake: [00:29:46] And I have a feeling anybody who’s been married understands the value of this, that a bouquet of flowers before your spouse gets mad at you is often much more effective than a bouquet of flowers afterwards, right? And I think that’s sort of human nature. And something that I have – a skill that I am not naturally good at. I tend to be a reactive person. But being a – I think it’s very hard to be an effective servant leader if you’re purely reactive, because that misses so many opportunities to exhibit that kind of leadership.
Mark Bachmann: [00:30:26] Right. I agree.
Mike Blake: [00:30:28] And I think the other mentality is I had to give up an external need for validation. That servant leadership, I think, often is best applied when it’s not noticed. In a way, I kind of think of it like being an umpire in a baseball game. The best umpire in a baseball game is when you don’t even notice he’s there. But you just know that the game went well. You think the right team won the game and that’s it. But you never say, “You know what? That guy did a really great job calling balls and strikes that day. Good on him.”
Mike Blake: [00:31:08] And I think servant leadership requires that. And that requires, I think, subverting your ego a little bit and requires developing an inner source of validation. We say, “You know what? I did good today. I don’t need to have a thank you note, I don’t need to have a trophy or anything like that. I’m just going to open a nice bottle of Cabernet at the end of the day and just enjoy the fact that somebody else had a positive impact because of something that I did.”
Mark Bachmann: [00:31:43] I absolutely agree with that.
Mike Blake: [00:31:49] So, let me ask this, I’m curious, is there somebody that you look up to as an example of servant leadership? And if so, what is it about them that makes you put them in the position of sort of serving as a good example for you?
Mark Bachmann: [00:32:08] You know, I don’t know that I have one example or whatever of being a servant leader. I mean, I think, you know, there’s been certainly a lot of footage and coverage over the last couple of weeks about John Lewis. You know, a civil rights leader and what he was trying to do. And he seemed like he was a servant leader, really trying to, you know, meet the needs of others than himself. But I don’t know, you know, when I look at others out there, I mean, I can’t say I have a role model that I’m following.
Mike Blake: [00:33:01] Okay. Well, that’s fair, I mean, you know, you don’t necessarily have to. I think in the mainstream, the concept of servant leadership is still relatively new. And I think there are lots of people that behave as servant leaders, even though I don’t think they would necessarily characterize themselves that way. But you certainly see it kind of out there.
Mark Bachmann: [00:33:30] Yeah. I mean, I think we both know – I don’t know if he’s been on your show or not – but Tom Berger, who is a member of CEO Netweavers, I mean, talk about selflessness and just the amount of knowledge and what he’s willing to do to share with people and help others. I mean, you know, I’m inspired by a lot of our other members in CEO Netweavers.
Mike Blake: [00:34:08] Let me ask you this, a person who’s often held up as the archetypal servant leader is Martin Luther King Jr. And, you know, we know who he is because he was effective at promoting a grand cause. You could easily argue maybe the grandest at least domestic cause in the United States in the 20th Century. But, you know, do you have to be promoting a grand cause to be a servant leader? I don’t want to put words in your mouth. But as I observe you in the way that you carry yourself every day, you know, it’s not obvious to me that you necessarily have a grand cause other than to serve.
Mike Blake: [00:34:57] But maybe I’m wrong. So, I’d love you to tell me either right or wrong. And the question is, do I have to have some grand cause, some grand vision to be a servant leader? Or can that mentality be effective as simply as saying, “I’m going to try to do what I can to make my corner of existence a little bit better one day at a time.”
Mark Bachmann: [00:35:25] Yeah. No. I mean, I don’t have a grand cause. And, you know, as I said, now, I’m in the enviable position of largely being able to decide how I spend my time and with whom and doing what. But I believe servant leadership can be done on a one-on-one basis. And once again, you know, the more people you can affect in a positive way and help them, you know, the hope is that they will pay it forward and adopt some of those same behaviors and traits and help others. And so, I do think there’s some merit to what Greenleaf wrote about some 50 years ago, about a more just and caring world. And so, you know, let’s do it one at a time.
Mike Blake: [00:36:27] We’ll switch gears here, because I think it’s an important question. And that is, I think there may be a tendency for somebody to hear about servant leadership and think that it’s effectively the same thing as philanthropy. And I’d love to get your observation on that. Is, in fact, servant leadership different from philanthropy? Or if they’re not the same, are they linked? What view, if any, do you have in the relationship between those two kind of conceptual frameworks?
Mark Bachmann: [00:37:04] Well, most often when I think of philanthropy, I think about, you know, the big donors who are giving money to the various causes out there and so forth. And I guess, you could also say that there’s – you know, giving up one’s time is philanthropic as well. But I think largely it’s thought about as money. But if you include time or volunteering and then you say, “Well, okay.” Then I think there are some crossover or some things that cross over into being a servant leader because you truly are serving and giving or helping others. But I don’t think of servant leadership of giving money.
Mike Blake: [00:38:00] Now, you and I are both, as we’ve talked about, we’re in a group that promotes and, for lack of a better term, I think in a way aggregates servant leadership. And there are others like that, Knights of Columbus and Kiwanis and, even to an extent, Rotary Club, things of that nature. What do you think is the benefit of creating groups that are servant leaders as opposed to individuals kind of doing it alone?
Mark Bachmann: [00:38:33] Well, I mean, I think, first of all, it’s nice when you’re with other like-minded people. And I think that you learn from each other. I think there’s inspiration that is shared, absorbed. When you hear stories and see actions that, you know, question, “Okay. Can I up my game? What else can I do? How can I be better?” And then, I think it also sort of channels our energies or our focus for some of the initiatives.
Mark Bachmann: [00:39:13] So, you know, as you’re aware, but the organization has an initiative called Inflection Point, where we are pulling a group of executives together to create an advisory board for a CEO on a short term basis. While you’re getting four or five people together to help that organization as opposed to just one-on-one. And there’s so much learning in one of those sessions. And I know you light it for a while as well. But I think there’s just so much that you take away as well as you give in those sessions. So, you know, I think that’s the benefit of being in a group.
Mike Blake: [00:40:01] And we’re talking to Mark Bachmann on the discussion of becoming a servant leader or the decision of whether to become a servant leader. Do you ever kind of think about or wonder about how do you measure or how do you know that you’re being effective? I mean, do you just sort of have a gut instinct? Is there anything that you monitor? I mean, I know your finance – you’re a quantitative kind of guy. Have you ever given any thought to kind of measuring your effectiveness as a servant leader? And if so, you know, what might your key performance indicators or KPIs look like?
Mark Bachmann: [00:40:45] Yeah. Great question. And I haven’t really gone to measure it other than sort of – and you mentioned this earlier about where you can get the self-validation because you don’t necessarily get it externally. But how do you feel after you’ve worked with someone or helped someone out? So, it’s a lot of that, you know, self-reflection and feeling of “Oh, I’ve done it.” You know, you do get some positive accolades from time to time.
Mark Bachmann: [00:41:26] And I think, you know, when I look back in the mentoring program that we have with Casal State University, in particular, I had a student a couple of years ago who we still stay in contact with. And to me, that’s a validation that I’ve really helped him, that he’s been wanting and willing to continue. You know, he’s reaching out to me and we built a nice relationship as a result of that. So, I know I’ve done some good and helped in that regard.
Mike Blake: [00:42:13] So, we’re running up against our time limit, but I’m going to squeeze a couple more questions in. And one of those kind of parting shots I want to get your thoughts on is how has servant leadership changed, if at all, in this current coronavirus massive social upheaval/murder hornets environment? Has it limited your ability to express it? Has it enhanced it? Has it put it on hold? Exposed a need? How is this environment kind of reframed your relationship with a servant leadership posture, if any?
Mark Bachmann: [00:42:58] Well, I mean, there’s certainly a growing need for that. I think that, you know, in a crisis, depending on how severe and what the circumstances are, I mean, some people may sort of gravitate back to whatever their natural tendencies are. And, you know, if they were a servant leader before, they’ll likely still think that way first. But, I think there’s clearly people who are in need. And so, you know, to the extent that some people have time and I’ve had some time, so I’ve been able to do some things with some folks, you know, not face to face, but through Zoom and through other means to try to help them get through or counsel them.
Mike Blake: [00:44:02] Mark, this has been a great discussion. And as is often the case with these interviews, I learned a ton, which is what makes them so rewarding. I’m sure, at least, some of our listeners have questions about servant leadership and what it might mean in their particular situation or circumstances. Would you be willing to entertain a question from them if they wanted to contact you? And and if so, what would be the best way for them to do that?
Mark Bachmann: [00:44:30] Yeah. So, they certainly can reach out to me through LinkedIn is fine. And I have contact information out there. It’s probably the best way to do it. And I’m certainly willing to have a conversation with them. And you know, if you really want to dive deeply into servant leadership, there is an organization called the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership that they could also follow up with.
Mike Blake: [00:45:09] Very good. That’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Mark Bachmann so much for joining us and sharing his expertise with us.
Mike Blake: [00:45:16] We’ll be exploring a new topic each week. So, please tune in so that when you’re faced with your next executive decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy these podcast, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision podcast.