#94: Servant Leadership

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This is a podcast episode titled, #94: Servant Leadership. The summary for this episode is: If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. ----- Before you can lead you must serve. If you're a manager or want to become a manager, this episode is for you. Two Ways To Support The Show 1. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Connect With Us Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. Come hang out with us on Twitter @seekingwisdomio. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com.

Speaker 1: Look at Amy. Next level. crosstalk. She got apparatus.

Speaker 2: She has big goals, now.

Speaker 1: Let's go.

Speaker 2: That's what that camera's for. All right. So you sent me a bunch of messages this week.

Speaker 1: I did.

Speaker 2: And I was torn on what we should talk about, today.

Speaker 1: Oh, man. I was flying messages.

Speaker 2: You have so many good ones and I'm going to save a couple of them.

Speaker 1: What?

Speaker 2: Yeah, because I realized that there's one that you sent me last week, that should have been a staple of Seeking Wisdom since day one. And we haven't done a podcast episode on it, yet.

Speaker 1: All right. Let's do it. I don't know what it is.

Speaker 2: Okay. I'm going to read you a little quote. This was from an announcement that went out last week and it was talking about you guys, you and Elias. One indelible lesson from David and Elias is the philosophy of servant leadership. Servant leadership focuses managers on serving their team, not the other way around. And sometimes, that means helping solidify a vision, but more often it means empowering people and teams with an uncomfortable level of ownership. So today, on Seeking Wisdom, we're going to talk about servant leadership.

Speaker 1: Wow. I can't believe we haven't talked about this.

Speaker 2: I can't believe it.

Speaker 1: But before we go into this, I got an email.

Speaker 2: This isn't for... I never know where this is going to go.

Speaker 1: I got an email from a listener, up in Canada, got called out. We need to eat some humble pie and say," We apologize. Seeking Wisdom family. Because, we let you down. We let the ego get in our way", with the... Not the last episode, which was with Pat Grady. The one before that, which we talked about... It was supposed to be a thank you episode.

Speaker 2: It was supposed to be a thank you episode. And I think...

Speaker 1: Explain yourself. Explain yourself to the people.

Speaker 2: I'm going to explain myself. I'm taking ownership. It's supposed to be a thank you episode. We had a week of Hypergrowth and we announced our series B. It was supposed to be a thank you episode, but I guess it came off as a little bit humble braggy, and that's not what we ever want to do.

Speaker 1: No. So we apologize to you, crosstalk everyone, peoples.

Speaker 2: We apologize. We got one email and I don't know if that's indicative of the larger thing, but if somebody tells you then...

Speaker 1: That's it. And we got to remember the struggle between humility and your ego is a daily battle. We all falter.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Speaker 1: And so, we fall through a bit. We apologize. We're back at it. We're back on the grind. We're here to talk about servant leadership. What do you know about servant leadership?

Speaker 2: Oh, what do I know about serving leadership? I always knew what it was, but I didn't know of the name. I didn't know it had a name. To me, servant leadership has been like leading by example. That's always been a thing that I've tried to think about, is leading by example. Those people that I respect. Those people that do things. But then, once... I've been here two years now, and when I got connected with you guys, I started to see the true meaning of servant leadership, which is everything from cleaning up after somebody to buying donuts to... I don't know. Whatever the small examples are. Servant leadership is basically a way to set the tone for everybody else. And if you want to lead, first, you have to serve.

Speaker 1: I love that. If you want to lead, first, you have to serve. I kind of stumbled upon the idea of servant leadership many years ago. Probably... I don't remember what year it was. Early 2000's, let's say, when I read for the first time, one of my favorite books, Sam Walton, Made in America.

Speaker 2: That's three times in 24 hours you've mentioned that book.

Speaker 1: People don't know. crosstalk.

Speaker 2: How much does it cost?

Speaker 1: $5.

Speaker 2: Oh.

Speaker 1: Okay.

Speaker 2: But it's too expensive.

Speaker 1: Okay. He's the richest man in the world. He wrote that book in his death bed. crosstalk$ 5...

Speaker 2: The richest man in the world wrote a book and it cost$ 5.

Speaker 1: Mm- hmm(affirmative). But everyone wants to learn, but no one has time to read the book.

Speaker 2: But you could go keep reading Buzzfeed, anyway.

Speaker 1: Okay. Yeah. Or Buzzfeed. Anyway, in that book, the first time I read it, he talked about the notion of servant leadership and that he was there to serve the associates at Walmart, which was his company. And that's how he viewed things. Right? He had this kind of a humble approach where... Humble beyond any of us. Was a billionaire, drove an old pickup truck with dogs and chickens in the back. And was there sweeping up and taking care of those stores. And that was his approach. There was something that spoke to me about that, but I put it to the side. I did what all of us do, followed conventional wisdom, went the opposite of servant leadership and did that for a number of years. And then, it was years later that I came back to revisit that topic.

Speaker 2: I love. You just said conventional wisdom. And I was listening to the podcast we did with Pat Grady. Because, I do listen to every Seeking Wisdom episode.

Speaker 1: He had a great quote in that.

Speaker 2: Reps and sets. Three minutes in, he said," If you follow conventional wisdom, you'll end up with a conventional company". And I was like," Wow".

Speaker 1: And that's true in all areas of life.

Speaker 2: That's true. Yeah.

Speaker 1: If you follow conventional wisdom in finances, you'll be broke. If you follow conventional wisdom in health, you'll be sick. And if you follow it in building companies, you'll build a mediocre company. So, I followed conventional wisdom, led to mediocre results. Then I came back to read and I didn't like the results. And so, I thought there had to be a different way. And somehow, I think I re- read that book and that really stood out to me, the idea.

Speaker 2: What is the connection between servant leadership and ownership?

Speaker 1: Good question. Before I answer that, let me explain how I think about servant leadership. Typically, in kind of management theory, there's this pyramid, right? And at the base of the pyramid... Think about a pyramid at the base, which is the largest part, obviously, of a pyramid. Those are the individual contributors. And then, as you go up in title, you start to go up too, then you go to managers, directors, VPs, CEO, right? And that's the top of the pyramid. And what happens in most companies is that's how they're run. And most people want to move from the bottom of the pyramid, the massive many, and they want to go up and be as close to the top of that pyramid. And why is that? Because the rewards and the decision making happens that way. And then servant leadership takes that paradigm. In my version of it flips the pyramid upside down. And so, at the top of the pyramid is the widest part, right? And at the top of the pyramid and my version, are the customers, are the first thing, right? So, they are the most important thing. And then, in the second tier, are the individual contributors. And then, you keep going down until eventually you get to the CEO. Right? And what that does is, it gives everyone a visual paradigm for understanding who is here to serve who. And the idea is that, the higher title is the more your job is to support those above you. And ultimately the person that is at the very top are the customers,

Speaker 2: Okay. So you're a CEO you've been on exec teams. How do you interview for that? How do you screen for that? And how do you make sure that everybody else is a believer? Because, I feel like that doesn't work if you're the only guy that thinks about that. It has to be a company crosstalk.

Speaker 1: Yeah. That's a good question. I think, it doesn't work unless you have these little tiny acts that are unscalable back to our unscalable kind of notion like that are not scalable that you have to do each day. Because by its very nature, like the things that you're going to deal with in this upside down pyramid are to deal with these exceptions that are not scalable. Right? It's going to be the complaints about, like we talked about the no m& ms or like we haven't had donuts in three weeks. Whatever it is, those have to become the top priority or whatever the customer may be complaining about. And so, one, we orient our teams around serving the customer. But beyond that, that's the first guardrail. Beyond that, we try to look for managers and DPs and those kind of people that are willing to put in the work first, back to your example in the beginning and serve and actually do the job before they lead.

Speaker 2: One thing... I remember you wrote this early on. You wrote this early on at Drift. You wrote... It was something.... I forget what the doc was, but the internal thing on the crosstalk and we were talking about... You wrote something like, whether we hire a VP, a C- level whatever, a director, a senior director or manager, whoever, nothing that you've done before at other companies counts. Everyone's clock, everyone's resume resets when you come to Drift. Is that a connection to...

Speaker 1: Absolutely.

Speaker 2: You got to come in- crosstalk.

Speaker 1: You get no credit.

Speaker 2: No credit?

Speaker 1: Yeah. And one thing that I would do in the past, which we should do again, is even when I would bring in a VP. I would not have anyone to report to that person for a while until they proved themselves. Right? They had to earn their way versus coming and saying-

Speaker 2: You've done that?

Speaker 1: Absolutely.

Speaker 2: crosstalk.

Speaker 1: A 100%. Yes. A 100%.

Speaker 2: What do they do?

Speaker 1: They were an individual contributor and they help the team-

Speaker 2: They're like a PM for a while or like...

Speaker 1: Basically, serve. They serve the team. They did one on ones. They did a lot stuff, but no one actually reported to them.

Speaker 2: I like that a lot.

Speaker 1: And then, eventually, as they had some mastery and they've proven themselves, then two people would report to them. And then, a team, and then a bigger team, and then three teams and it just kept expanding until the point that maybe a whole organization reported to him. But what that showed was, one, it was a qualifier for people who wanted that rule. Like, are you willing to go back to zero? Back to your point and earn your way back even though you have this great experience. Even if you're a title and you came in and new title was VP, it just still meant you had to work your way back up. Are you willing to do that? And that would disqualify most people.

Speaker 2: Yeah, most people Those people, because that's the ultimate... Everyone, the stock line is like," I roll up my sleeves", and whatever, right?

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Speaker 2: You've heard that so much from everybody.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And no one does it.

Speaker 2: No one does it. That's a hell of a way to crosstalk

Speaker 1: That was a crazy task. Others would be interviewing people and seeing how often they took credit for things versus gave other people credit. crosstalk.

Speaker 2: The I, we thing.

Speaker 1: The I, we thing. That's an example of serving. And even when someone was in and was in a leadership role, were they willing to put aside maybe what they were focused on in order to help an individual within the team.

Speaker 2: You know the other hard part? And this is hard to learn.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Speaker 2: Ego thing. Is that, with servant leadership, you often have to do things... Actually, almost all the time you have to do things where no one is... It's a thankless thing.

Speaker 1: Totally, thankless.

Speaker 2: And you're never going to get the credit, right?

Speaker 1: Nope.

Speaker 2: Nobody's ever going to be like," Oh man, thank you so much for bringing in those donuts, man. That was..." crosstalk.

Speaker 1: Totally.

Speaker 2: People are like," Fuck you. I expect you to bring that in".

Speaker 1: crosstalk donuts. How come there were no jellies this time? What's going on? What's happening here?

Speaker 2: We don't have any. Where the vegan donuts? We don't have any? You don't care about me? You don't care?

Speaker 1: Yeah. Oh, that's true. That's true. The vegan donuts. The vegetarian donuts. It's true.

Speaker 2: It's not a mock on vegans. You know, we're abouts the plant lifestyle. crosstalk Be careful. Be careful.

Speaker 1: A plant-based lifestyle. Hashtag plant- based.

Speaker 2: I'm getting nervous. The bigger this podcast is growing, there's more people that are crosstalk.

Speaker 1: Yeah. You can offend them.

Speaker 2: Every episode we can offend somebody.

Speaker 1: And we love it. Rich Roll Podcast.

Speaker 2: So is Seeking Wisdom guests.

Speaker 1: Mm- hmm(affirmative). Guests, that's for sure. You better come on, dude. So anyway, that's a way to test. That's the way you go. And I think, what ends up happening is in order to build an organization, a company that has the sense of autonomy that we all want as humans. Not only people here at Drift, but just humans want. I don't see any way that that can work without a servant leadership framework. Right? Because, it can't work in that model. And so, you have to flip it and have the servant leadership framework as the basis for being able to empower that thing that we all want, which is the autonomy and the mastery.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Speaker 1: It needs to be built on this base.

Speaker 2: All right. Before we wrap this one, that's made me think of another management philosophy that we've never talked about here, crosstalk that I want you to talk about. One thing that you argue so strongly against and try to build a company around is-

Speaker 1: I never argue.

Speaker 2: You don't argue. Is to not have-

Speaker 1: That's a joke.

Speaker 2: Yeah. It is. No consent. There's no decisions driven by consensus.

Speaker 1: Come on.

Speaker 2: Right?

Speaker 1: I hate it.

Speaker 2: But that's the norm for so many... That's the default, is... Let's-

Speaker 1: But that goes back to conventional wisdom, right? Leads to conventionalization. crosstalk Consensus means the same thing. It means that we're averaging down to the thing that is the least offensive to people.

Speaker 2: So, you get five people in a room and you say," Hey, what do you think about my new marketing campaign? crosstalk Do you guys like this?"

Speaker 1: Yeah. That sucks. Because, one, none of those people are customer. Two, they probably don't want to offend you. Three, there'll be different opinions in there, no one's right, ultimately. And so, you average down to something that everyone agrees upon. It always leads to a bad place. That's why we try to have fewer meetings than most because like meetings by definition are a consensus driving activity. And so consensus is going to come out of there. Beyond informational meetings, we have the company one- on- one or some of the all hands meetings. Those are more informational meetings, but when you're like five people in a room discussing something, those usually... It's hard to fight mother nature and say that we're not going to average down to whatever the consensus opinion is there.

Speaker 2: And I think, I've seen you do this a lot, where you'll say... If somebody comes to you with a sales related thing, you're like," I don't know, ask Carmen".

Speaker 1: Totally.

Speaker 2: I don't know, ask Craig.

Speaker 1: Yeah, that's right.

Speaker 2: Craig's VP of sales. You just say," I don't know. That's not my area anymore. Ask them".

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Speaker 2: And you have to delegate that.

Speaker 1: You have to get rid of that. Something has been happening, where I'm not seeing enough six star reviews-

Speaker 2: You just read my mind. We got to do a contest, I think.

Speaker 1: We need a contest?

Speaker 2: I think so. Why not? I'll let you go ahead. You take it.

Speaker 1: There's not enough six star reviews coming in.

Speaker 2: There's not.

Speaker 1: You know my ego is fragile.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Speaker 1: We all have egos.

Speaker 2: Where did they go?

Speaker 1: I don't know. We need some more-

Speaker 2: Once a week you would forward me this lovely email from pod Rover. That would be like you have 39, 900 views. crosstalk sit on my couch, like," shhh".

Speaker 1: So we need to know, do you like this podcast?

Speaker 2: Do you still like this podcast? crosstalk.

Speaker 1: Do you still want the podcast inaudible.

Speaker 2: Or is this old news?

Speaker 1: What's going on?

Speaker 2: Do we need to adapt? Do we need a new format?

Speaker 1: Yeah, what's going on?

Speaker 2: What's the matter?

Speaker 1: All right. Five star reviews. Six stars, if you can. And in a mention, Michele, one L.

Speaker 2: One L.

Speaker 1: One L.

Speaker 2: Is it one L?

Speaker 1: It is one L. Come on. It's classy.

Speaker 2: Fun fact. Michelle works in customer success at Drift, but she closed a deal today. Careful. Watch out.

Speaker 1: Watch out. Going in too fast. Put her on the hot seat. Anyway, you mentioned Michele and Amy.

Speaker 2: And Amy.

Speaker 1: Shout it out. And maybe, we will have a contest. Maybe we will give away some books or some things to the people who leave five star only reviews. Shout us out. This is a movement. Next year Hypergrowth is going to be 5, 000 people.

Speaker 2: Wait. Hold on.

Speaker 1: I got excited. I got excited.

Speaker 2: This can't be the first time crosstalk.

Speaker 1: I wish you could see DJs face, right now. It's red.

Speaker 2: We were getting in the car.

Speaker 1: Look at him. crosstalk.

Speaker 2: No, no. We talked about five. We talked about five. I just wasn't ready for the public to unveil.

Speaker 1: All right.

Speaker 2: I like what you did though. You flipped the contest on them. You said maybe if you leave review, you'll get something.

Speaker 1: Yeah, you'll get something, maybe. Okay. It's not guaranteed. crosstalk Life is not guaranteed. 5, 000 people next year.

Speaker 2: You want to tell them the other half?

Speaker 1: The other half? Not yet. Not yet. Not yet. So, 5, 000 people. We're not going to get there without these five star reviews. So, go to the Apple Podcast, open that up, leave some five star reviews, so we can bring you the best guests on the podcast, but also at next year's crosstalk.

Speaker 2: We're not going to share too much more about Hypergrowth, but I will tell you this, we are going to be using Seeking Wisdom strategically, over the next year. We're featuring people who are role models, mentors, here groups, legends to us. We're going to bring them on Seeking Wisdom. We didn't have a lot of guests and then we realized," You know what? Let's have guests, but let's only have people that really we can learn from", and that's who we're going to have. What we realized though, is that Seeking Wisdom is the perfect place to build up all these people. And then, you ask them to come speak at Hypergrowth.

Speaker 1: This is your personal mentor and network, role model network, here. To leave a review, shout out Amy Michele, one L. Tell Michelle that she needs to go into sales. I was showing this to her and keep listening. If you liked this podcast, share it with someone else, share with your friends. All right. We're out.

Speaker 2: See you.


If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. ----- Before you can lead you must serve. If you're a manager or want to become a manager, this episode is for you. Two Ways To Support The Show 1. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Connect With Us Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. Come hang out with us on Twitter @seekingwisdomio. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com.