How a Servant Leader Manages Time

Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus of VISA International which is arguably the most profitable business in the world, believed strongly in Servant Leadership. He believed that Servant Leaders manage their time very differently to the hierarchical, top down style of leaders that he abhorred.

Gary Ryan, Organisations That Matter, Servant leadership

Dee Hock

So how did Dee Hock believe that a Servant Leader should spend their time?

Fifty percent of your time should be spent managing yourself. This is how you manage your own continuous development, how you challenge your own thinking, how you manage your response to someone who says something that you disagree with, how you manage yourself when things go wrong and so on. Managing yourself is an activity that co-exists with everything else that you do with your time which is why the percentage is so high.

Twenty five percent of your time should be spent managing those who have formal authority over you. This is the classic ‘managing up’. You do this by challenging them, influencing them, providing them with data, respectfully questioning them, articulating possible futures grounded in purpose and values, being true to the organisation’s vision, mission and values among other methods.

Twenty percent of your time should be spent managing those over whom you have no authority, and they have no authority over you. These are your peers and colleagues. You manage these people in a similar way to how you manage up. Once again you do this by challenging them, influencing them, providing them with data, respectfully questioning them, articulating possible futures grounded in purpose and values, being true to the organisation’s vision, mission and values among other methods.

How much time is left for managing those over whom you have formal authority?

Five percent. Yes, that is correct. Five percent of your time.

How could you be an effective leader and only spend five percent of your time managing those people who directly report to you?” I hear you ask.

As Dee Hock says all you have to do is teach them the same model for how they should manage their time. That way they will be spending 25 percent of their time managing you. When they come to you with issues you will then know why they are coming and give them your undivided attention.

When I teach people these principles they are often stunned at these percentages. “They don’t seem right. I’m accountable for my team. I just can’t see how this could work!” are the rebukes I receive.

It is true that this is a different way of thinking and seeing the world and your role as a leader. But if it can work for the man who created the most profitable business in the world, then why can’t it work for you?

If you would like to explore how Servant Leadership can be introduced to your organisation please contact me here.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

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