Have you ever heard the following phrases?  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or “I do it that way because that’s the way it’s always been done”.  I’m sure most of you have but as a servant leader they are unacceptable.  Why…

Servant leaders understand that status quo is not OK.

We live in a world where everybody is fighting for your customers. A world where there is always more to do and to achieve. If you’re not consistently improving I guarantee you’ll be left behind.  It rests on the shoulders of the leader to foster a culture of continuous improvement.

There are numerous examples of people or organizations that have rested on their laurels and before they knew it were irrelevant in the marketplace. When is the last time you heard of someone signing up for an AOL paid email account, standing in line to buy a Blackberry, or listening to music on a Walkman?

If you are not disrupting, you stand the chance of being disrupted! 

I’ve always said being a servant leader is extremely hard and developing a culture of continuous improvement is no exception.  Simply standing in front of your folks and telling them you want to improve won’t make it happen.  You must be intentional about the following:

  • Set the Vision. It is important that the leader paint the picture of the future. The team needs to know what they are striving for.  As a senior leader, you can’t delegate vision.
  • Ensure daily execution while driving innovation and improvement. Don’t take your eye off the importance of daily execution. Doing so may lead to never getting to realize the impact of the innovation and improvement you are striving for.
  • Put your folks in control of the goal.  Too often a manager will try and dictate exactly how to complete a task.  Instead provide your team with the end goal and then allow them to surprise you with ideas and plans on how to get it done.  You’ll be amazed at what they come up with. The people closest to the action know best what needs to be done to drive improvement. The higher you are in an organization the fewer decisions you should make.
  • Make sure everyone knows it’s OK to fail.  If people sense that there is serious risk to failure you will not get significant improvement. Give people a budget and provide incentives for driving improvement and generating new innovative ideas. Utilize failure for learning opportunity.
  • Most importantly celebrate successes!  A culture of continuous improvement requires proper celebration and recognition of those people that are making it happen. I like to encourage leaders to celebrate like they are at a sporting event. Fans don’t wait until the end of the game to cheer. They cheer every good play that is made. As leaders, we should do the same. 

Servant leaders are intentional about building performance. They don’t leave it to chance. They know that status quo is not OK and they build an environment that promotes and recognizes improvement.

I’d love to hear how you are fostering an environment of innovation and consistent improvement.


The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more… His master replied, “Well done good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”  Matthew 25: 16, 21