March 27

Episode 1420: Interview with Jon Kidwell About Redefining Servant Leadership

Inspired Stewardship Podcast, Interview

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Join us today for the Interview with Jon Kidwell, author of Redefine Your Servant Leadership...

This is the interview I had with speaker, podcast host, and author Jon Kidwell.  

In today’s podcast I interview Jon Kidwell.  I ask Jon to share with you what brought him to write his book Redefine Your Servant Leadership.  I also ask Jon about what he sees as the biggest differences between leadership as it’s traditionally defined and his definition of leadership.  Jon also shares some tips on how you can begin to move from traditional leadership to true servant leadership.

Join in on the Chat below.

Episode 1420: Interview with Jon Kidwell About Redefining Servant Leadership

[00:00:00] Scott Maderer: Thanks for joining us on episode 1, 420 of the Inspired Stewardship Podcast.

[00:00:07] Jon Kidwell: Hey, I'm Jon Kidwell. I call you to invest in yourself, invest in others, develop your influence, and impact the world by using your time, your talent, your treasures to live out the calling that you have on your life. You have the power to make a change in your life.

[00:00:27] And one way to do that is to be inspired to do that by listening to the Inspired Stewardship Podcast with my friend, Scott Maderer

[00:00:39] it's, we think that there are these two ends of the spectrum, uh, these dichotomies that exist. And what I would say is that there's another way, uh, that perhaps it's a both and that there's this opportunity for leaders to [00:01:00] step into. Simple, not easy of deep relationship with an expectation of tremendous results.

[00:01:09] Scott Maderer: Welcome and thank you for joining us on the Inspired Stewardship Podcast. If you truly desire to become the person who God wants you to be, then you must learn to use your time, your talent and your treasures for your true calling. In the Inspired Stewardship Podcast, you will learn to invest in yourself, invest in others, And develop your influence so that you can impact the world.

[00:01:41] In today's podcast, I interview John Kidwell. I asked John to share with you what brought him to write his book, redefine Your Servant Leadership. I also asked John about what he sees as the biggest differences between leadership as it's traditionally defined and his definition of leadership. And John also [00:02:00] shares some tips on how you can begin to move from traditional leadership to true servant leadership.

[00:02:07] I've got a new book coming out called Inspired Living. Assembling the puzzle of your call by mastering your time, your talent, and your treasures. You can find out more about it and sign up. For getting more information over@inspiredstewardship.com. Inspired Living. That's inspired stewardship.com.

[00:02:28] Inspired living. John Kidwell is the founder and leader of leadwell, a leadership development company on a mission to equip and empower leaders so they can succeed at their life's mission. He supports leaders and their organizations through coaching, training, team building, and speaking. During his tenure as a VP of Innovation and Operations for a global non profit in Houston, Texas, he worked with companies such as Apple, Nike, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Pfizer, the University of Houston, and the YMCA of [00:03:00] the USA.

[00:03:01] Additionally, he serves as an Organizational Leadership Adjunct Professor for the Townsend Institute at Concordia University. Irvine. He has written a new book that challenges the conventional wisdom on what it means to be a servant leader. The book titled, Redefine Your Servant Leadership, is based on Kidwell's personal and professional experiences, as well as his extensive research and practice in the field of leadership development.

[00:03:26] Welcome to the show, John!

[00:03:28] Jon Kidwell: Hey, thank you so much for having me, Scott. It's a pleasure to be here.

[00:03:31] Scott Maderer: Absolutely. I'm looking forward to it. I share in the intro a little bit about you and your company and the book that you've got out, Redefine Your Servant Leadership. But my joke that I always tell people is intros are always like the Instagram version of our life, right?

[00:03:48] We make sure we frame everything so that the dirty laundry is out of the back and everything looks shiny and new. Yeah, very seldom is that the journey that really happened. What are you talking about? [00:04:00] Oh, it's bumpy on the way, right? And your book redefined servant leadership is a topic that I've been in leadership positions.

[00:04:09] I've done leadership for years. I've trained other leaders. It's never a smooth journey when you're in leadership. There's always bumps and bruises and things that happen along the way. Talk a little bit about your journey. What brought you to the point of wanting to put out that message to folks about leadership and what it means to you?

[00:04:27] Jon Kidwell: Yeah. Thank you. So the we'll do the truncated, but I'll give you some of the stuff in between all of the data point highlights. So I started as a teacher. I came out and I was supposed to be a teacher and I was supposed to be a principal and I was supposed to do all of those things.

[00:04:45] And lo and behold. I got the proverbial two by four to the heart and to the mind that just, Oh, I'm going in a different direction because I was feeling this leadership in business thing. And I'm so grateful for [00:05:00] the six years that I got to teach to go back and do a principal internship to do all those things.

[00:05:04] But so I move and I go over and start doing leadership and business and the nonprofit area. And I found that working with people solving big financial problems and, When there are a lot of changes, crises, growth, there's a lot of opportunities and I had those and so I continued to take on more responsibility and then one day I'm in our ops meeting.

[00:05:32] So it's all the VPs with our leader and he pulls me aside after and he says, John, can I talk to you for a second and all of what I have done up to this point lead by example. help everybody as best that I can take on everything kind of high expectations of self. And if we're being honest I wasn't super concerned with other people.

[00:05:56] I really wanted to keep them happy and engaged and didn't [00:06:00] focus a whole lot on the work and talk a whole lot about the money stuff. I took that on all myself to bear. And so he pulls me aside and he says, can I talk to you for a second? Here's the thing, John, I know you are a person of integrity.

[00:06:14] I know that you pride yourself on being honest, and in that room, when you won't engage in conflict, when you won't disagree with us, when you say one thing and then go do another thing, back in your area of leadership, we think you're being dishonest and that you're hiding stuff from us. And that needs to change if you want to continue to be a part of this team.

[00:06:38] Eh. And thus another proverbial two by four to the heart and mind, where for me at that time, it was a big, Oh my goodness, what got me here won't get me there, but I've stacked everything up on this idea of serving leadership that, that I've been building and now you just challenged[00:07:00] one of the core pieces, integrity that I've built this whole thing on.

[00:07:04] And so that sent me down a journey of, okay, what might actually be going on? What might be true? What does it look like to actually be a servant leader who can be on mission, have a heart for people and do some really good business? And so that's where I went. And that eventually took me out of the Y and then built our leadership development company.

[00:07:25] And now that's what we do today. So a

[00:07:28] Scott Maderer: couple of questions come to mind. First, I was a school teacher too, before I went in, did a. Billion other things. Yeah. But I did it for 16 years. So a little longer. So I've got to ask this question. What did you teach?

[00:07:42] Jon Kidwell: Six years. I was all over the place. I taught in high school and then I taught elementary school physical education.

[00:07:48] And I also did some math and reading before doing principal internship. Okay.

[00:07:53] Scott Maderer: So yeah I'm sorry. That's a, I, no one else cares, but

[00:07:56] Jon Kidwell: I [00:08:00] do. There's the immediate connection. And, but what Scott and I just did for those that don't know is so much by saying, Oh, I was in a high school. And it's Oh I know what that was.

[00:08:10] I know I was in an elementary school and you did these types of things. And it is There's just so much context and connection that comes with that. Honestly, Scott, like when you or I are to say something like, I'm a servant leader, boom, immediately, there is this deep resonance connection, kind of understanding of some of the core pieces of each other that just a little bit of information can give us.

[00:08:36] Scott Maderer: What and what's interesting about that too, is. That can be correct and incorrect. What I mean by that is I read into, you're right. You said I taught high school. I taught elementary school. I've read into that based on my experience. And there is probably some commonality and some common ground and things, but if we were to dig deeper and we're not going to talk about teaching for the next hour, folks, calm down, [00:09:00] it's going.

[00:09:02] If we dig in deeper, we would also be able to find out, Oh, these things are in common. That was right assumptions. And, Oh, wait, these things are subtly different or significantly different. And maybe these were some assumptions that we need to rejigger and rebalance. How, what do exactly did we mean by that word?

[00:09:19] I tell people I'm a big fan of defining language because we use language all the time. Like we all know what it means. Yeah. We don't all know what it means.

[00:09:27] Jon Kidwell: We don't all know what it means. And that's honestly where I went on that kind of proverbial rabbit hole, if you will, for servant leadership and thus the name of the book, redefine your servant leadership, because what you just said, Scott is so true is that my experience, my assumptions have painted it one way for me.

[00:09:46] And it's very different for others. And the cultural norm and narrative around servant leadership is even different yet. And so I went down to I start putting together [00:10:00] Ikea projects. And then after two hours, I'm like, I should really look at the instructions, not just the picture.

[00:10:05] That's how I felt for this whole leadership, servant leadership thing once I got into this role. And so I, I enjoy research and I. not a researcher. So I did what all of us do. I googled it. What's the definition of leadership, right? And what's the definition of servant leadership? And I found how we, all of us, Define leadership for dictionary language, right?

[00:10:28] And it informs how we think about it. It informs what we do. It is based on three things that we really don't like about leaders. Command, control, and position. And that's where Google, and that's where Webster, and that's where they all put the emphasis, right? Someone who commands or controls a group, an organization, or da.

[00:10:46] Or it's someone who has a position of leadership. And I was like I don't. That's not how I want to be seen as a leader. And that's not how I want to build the foundation of how I lead. So [00:11:00] ergo, I'm diving into servant leadership and what do I find? I find the best definition that is out there is a servant leader is one who serves.

[00:11:10] Scott Maderer: Rather circular definition there. And I felt,

[00:11:13] Jon Kidwell: I felt immediately like I was chasing my own tail, right? And just what am I supposed to do with that? And so then, further to that went back all the way to the godfather of modern servant leadership, right? Greenleaf. And he put it forward as a philosophy, not a definition, but the idea that, to grow and to help people and communities be well and be thrive that we leaders put ourselves in service to them, right?

[00:11:41] To help them grow and thrive and be well. Awesome. And I still, I needed something a little bit different, a little bit deeper is not the right word. Cause I don't think it's deeper, but. perhaps practical. And so I look at Lencioni and he's talking about reward centered [00:12:00] versus responsibility centered.

[00:12:01] I go to Maxwell and he's leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less, influence, right? And I go to the Bible because that's a huge kind of piece in my life for guiding direction and for what is true. And I see examples of David who led them with a sincere devotion, a selfless devotion, sincere heart and skilled hands.

[00:12:25] And I see in Matthew, right? If you're going to be first, you're going to be last, like you need to go and be last, be of service. And in Philippians, we see that the example that Paul puts forward is about Jesus humbling himself even to the point of death on a cross. And so there's all these things about the internal workings, the heart that is there.

[00:12:45] And something that, that I put forward after years of tinkering around in there is, and I just say leadership, because at the end of the day, for me, I think leadership and servant leadership are synonymous with one another. I don't really see them [00:13:00] as separate but I like to use the word servant because it's indicative of the attitude that I want to use towards it.

[00:13:07] So we say in the book, servant leadership is the act of influencing the attitude. Thoughts and behaviors of others toward a shared purpose. I can't really move a community, an individual to grow, to be well, if we're not trying to go in the same direction. I want to focus on influence, which means that there's got to be some relational depth there, that there has to be this component of character that you trust me and that I can do what I say I'm going to do and that I can use all of that to to nudge, to influence, to direct, to motivate, to steer, to correct to whatever that might be, to get us to where we are all trying to go.

[00:13:52] Scott Maderer: So a couple of things, and there's I'm jotting questions down as we go, because there's a million different directions that, that [00:14:00] immediately come to mind, but I want to back up a minute, and then I want to come back to the beginning. So back when you were in that position, and you were sitting in that room, and you got that message from the leader.

[00:14:10] Would you had thought of yourself at that point as a servant leader, right? 100%. Yes. Okay. And how, at that time, do you think you were in your heart and mind, what did you define servant leadership is if you had to put a name on it

[00:14:25] Jon Kidwell: or put it, lead by example and help other people. Okay.

[00:14:30] Scott Maderer: And how did you define helping other

[00:14:31] Jon Kidwell: people?

[00:14:32] Doing whatever they ask me to do.

[00:14:35] Scott Maderer: And make them happy, right? And make them happy! No conflict, no pain. They shouldn't be yelling at anyone. Yeah,

[00:14:43] Jon Kidwell: yeah. So for me, I realized that one of the things that I was putting up there as being able to accomplish that end. Their well being, their happiness, not growth necessarily but happiness came because I was being nice.

[00:14:59] And so if I [00:15:00] was going to lead by example, if I was going to help people, it was going to be in a way where it was nice because if I was nice, I could keep everything kind of calm, cool, no conflict. You're smiling. I'm smiling. But what I didn't realize at the time, or honestly, probably what I didn't want to face at the time, is that just like a duck on the top of the water, he's cruising along, but everything underneath is just moving and grooving, those feet are going, and there's a lot of stuff churning.

[00:15:28] And there was so much churning underneath in myself, where I would do all of those things and then I would turn around and I'd not proud of it, but I'd be bitter or resentful because now I'm doing all the work that I've actually just taken away from somebody else, let them off the hook or removed a growth opportunity by them doing their own work.

[00:15:48] I've limited the organization because I only ever talk about. the good things. I don't talk about the fact that maybe we're struggling with money and I'm just saying, I'll figure it out, right? This is my responsibility to help and figure it out. [00:16:00] I don't bring people into it. And I'm not actually getting to sometimes the truth because of my inability to engage in what might be a courageous conversation for some of us, to tell someone that they have the proverbial broccoli in the teeth, right?

[00:16:19] Scott Maderer: And that's kind of part of it is as you dig into how you defined servant, leadership, even fundamentally underneath there cause again, it's layer it's layers upon layers. It's leading by example and making sure everyone's happy. Okay. Yeah. But how do you define happy? Okay. It means that there's no conflict.

[00:16:41] Wait a minute. sometimes conflict is healthy. Sometimes it's not it's not conflict that's bad. It's how we handle it and what's it for and what's the purpose behind it and all of that. But it's very seldom. And I think that's one of the reasons that it's so important that something like what you're putting out with redefining the servant [00:17:00] leadership that you get beyond just higher level word leadership.

[00:17:07] servant and start digging into, yeah, but how does that actually show up in the real world? Because I say serve and everyone goes, Oh yeah, I know what that means. No, you probably don't at least not fully because you haven't yet if for no other reason than because somebody standing next to you probably understands that word differently.

[00:17:29] 100 percent No other reason. There's just that misalignment. And that happened to you because the folks in that room probably all considered themselves servant leaders too. But they had a different picture of how would that express in that room. Yeah. Is

[00:17:45] Jon Kidwell: that true? A hundred percent true. And it really, for me, got to what you said about that serve and what that is, and that is to act for the benefit of another, right?

[00:17:56] To act for the benefit of the object. I can serve [00:18:00] by doing my yard. I can serve by doing dishes. I can serve by showing up to volunteer and plant trees. I can serve by bringing in your trash can, Scott, without you even knowing. I can actually serve you by also saying, Scott, what we're working on is so important.

[00:18:16] What you turned in last Friday isn't yet good enough. Let's work on that together. That is also something that can serve you when my heart is for you, winning, and for our mission, advancing, right? Our work, being successful. And it starts to do those things. And we actually say in the book, I love this definition, it's from Vody Bauckham, that it requires love and love in its simplest form is an act of the will for the benefit of the object that's followed by an emotion.

[00:18:50] And I just love how he puts that out there, that it is an act of the will to sometimes stand principled, to sometimes tell the [00:19:00] kind, hard truth with care, that sometimes it is an act of the will to make a very challenging business decision to shut down one of the departments. It is an act of the will for the benefit of the person, for the benefit of the organization, for the benefit of the mission that you are on.

[00:19:21] and then, yeah, then there usually comes emotions of gladness, excitement, anger, fear, but love is first committing that act by will to benefit and serve other people.

[00:19:36] Scott Maderer: And I think of that parent child not that Leaders should treat their employees like children. That's not what I'm saying, but there's analogies sometimes in that and they're too good.

[00:19:46] They're too good to pass up that sometimes as a parent telling your kid, no, is actually the most loving thing you can do. If they want to go play in the middle of a busy highway, putting up a fence and saying, no, you can't do that. [00:20:00] is a loving act. So it, and the same thing happens in our relationships and business and then, or with our spouse whatever, in that sometimes putting that boundary up and saying, no this is something that we can't do, or this isn't acceptable, is actually an act of love, even though I think a lot of times for a lot of us, it doesn't feel like it in the moment.

[00:20:22] Jon Kidwell: No. It sucks. Like I don't want to tell people. No, I don't want people to tell me. No. However, I know that it is necessary to say the word. No, I know it's necessary to say the word. No, because we got to be able to do the things that we need to say yes to, right? And so even just this week which pained me, we told somebody, no we're not going to go do that work.

[00:20:51] It was outside of our scope. I really want to do it. I really like them. It's just not our work to do. So we were kind, we [00:21:00] connected them with somebody else. Hey, here's some resources. Could it have been a great financial opportunity for us? It could have been a good one. However, it's not our work and yeah, it pains me, but they wouldn't have got the best that they could have because we're not really practiced in it.

[00:21:15] And we would have been pulled out of potential other opportunities. or distracted ourselves from the specific work that we do in mission driven organizations by going and doing this one off. Again, want to just know that sometimes it's, it is an act of the will to say no, and it's a no because there's better for you.

[00:21:37] And we have to focus over here.

[00:21:40] Scott Maderer: Yeah, and that's it was, and it's important that you be able to do that and put those boundaries up. So earlier you use the word influence and folks that listen to the show have heard me before I talk about the difference between manipulation and influence because a lot of times I think people hear the word influence.

[00:21:58] But what they're thinking about [00:22:00] is what I define as manipulation. And so I'll share my definition. And then a tweak that I've added to it recently, because a friend of mine pointed it out to me. And I'm interested in your thoughts on it. So for me, manipulation is when I work on you to get you to do something because it is good for me.

[00:22:23] where influence is when I'm working with you on something to get you to do something because, and here's how I used to say it, it's good for you. My friend said, sometimes it's still good for you too. It's good. In other words, an influence is when I help it because it's good for the other person.

[00:22:41] And I still think that's true, and it could be us. That's the addition that he said, it could be us. And I'm like that's true, but you got to be careful with that one. Because sometimes that's that could be a slippery slope too. When you hear that, what do you think about that kind of differentiation or how, what would you add to that?

[00:22:58] Jon Kidwell: I [00:23:00] think when I'm thinking, I think influence. manipulation, the core question is, who is it for? Which ties into exactly what you said. And that is such a core question for all of us to think about with our actions is who is it for? The other thing that I think about and influence and manipulation is, and this is so nerdy and it's so sweet and it's also hopefully helpful for other people.

[00:23:31] We talk to our kids and we talk in our company the same way, but like you said, not like we are children, but we talk about secrets and surprises. Secrets are usually to protect me and therefore my benefit or to give me power and we don't keep secrets

[00:23:50] Scott Maderer: or to prevent me from losing power.

[00:23:53] Jon Kidwell: That's right. Secrets usually go with manipulation, right? I'm going to hide something from you. I'm not going to tell you something, but [00:24:00] surprises. If you got a big old strategy and the team has to focus for six months, otherwise they're just going to be distracted a surprise by just saying, Hey. Everybody on this leadership team, we're going to sit on this one for nine months.

[00:24:15] We've made the decision, but it's on us now to commit to what we said we're going to do in the next six months before we release the next plan. That's not manipulation, right? That is a discerning thought that's saying this is what we actually need to keep as the number one priority. And if people ask, we're not going to lie about it, but we're just going to say this is what's most important right now.

[00:24:37] Yes, we are working on these things. They're going to come at another time, just like with with a mom, with a dad, with a brother or sister. No, it's a good thing to hold that surprise, that present that we have. Don't give it away. It's going to take away from the joy. of them unwrapping it on their birthday.

[00:24:54] So I connect the two with secrets and surprises, right? Surprises are good. They're [00:25:00] for the other person. They're for all of us to enjoy, to celebrate, to do at the appropriate time. That's how influence works too. Manipulation, like secrets. Usually there's something hiding. It's a power play.

[00:25:13] It's just for me so that I can have the control. And that's not good for other people. So who's it for? And I like to point out to people that if you're worrying about, is it manipulation or influence? You're on the right track already because quite frankly, for a lot of folks, if they're not even thinking about it.

[00:25:33] Scott Maderer: That could be a bigger problem. That's a great point. Great point, Scott. Because I think most people are the people that are worried about it are usually the people that are you're probably heading down the right road. I'm not saying there's not still work to do, but you're at least trying to head down the right road.

[00:25:49] That's right. I want to circle back to one other thing that you shared. So you mentioned in there that your faith background and your beliefs have influenced some of how [00:26:00] you view all of this, let's talk about that a little bit. How has your faith journey intersected and influenced this leadership journey that you've been on?

[00:26:10] Jon Kidwell: Those three stranded bracelets that that you see people wear that's basically it. It is intricately woven together. I'm not sure that I could separate it nor do I want to right? And all of those have really gone hand in hand. The most of which being a deeper relationship.

[00:26:38] And a growing understanding of Jesus Christ my savior who died on the cross rose again to save me from all of my brokenness and sin and that relationship and diving into what did the servant leader. who redefined the entire world. [00:27:00] If we look pre Jesus and post Jesus at just culture and what were acceptable norms for how we treat people how we think about justice, how we approach conflict.

[00:27:17] It has been dramatically different. If even just pulling out, let's just pull out the little thing that you and I have together in education. Education pre non existent, wasn't for everybody, especially not for those that couldn't afford it post. All of the universities that we know started as Christian universities and colleges and education alone has been this tremendous thing that now is really seen as something that everybody should have the opportunity to access, right?

[00:27:51] Everywhere, worldwide, pre Jesus. Didn't exist, right? So just that one little thing and that [00:28:00] relationship has influenced all of it for me and actually in the book we tie in it's, Jesus is gentle, right? He's also strong that he has deep compassion and

[00:28:15] Scott Maderer: has

[00:28:16] Jon Kidwell: no problem making declarations.

[00:28:20] And also he will serve and get down on the towel and clean the dirtiest of feet and heal all day. And he will retreat to the mountaintop and he will sleep in the boat. He will love on people. And he will move beyond people because of the mission that he is on. And he does these things obviously perfectly, right?

[00:28:46] But it's such an example for the rest of us to say, what does it look like for me to serve others by being 100 percent mission driven to that, the calling, the purpose, the work of my life, my organization, [00:29:00] my family, what does it mean to do it with a servant heart? And I work in a business context. So I say, and with a business mind, right?

[00:29:07] If you're in a different place, you could say with skill you could say with excellence, whatever that might be but what does integrity, what does it mean for us to do it? Mission driven, servant, hearted, business minded.

[00:29:20] Scott Maderer: And that the interesting thing too, I think when for me, it's a similar story.

[00:29:26] I, I think I, I've over the years, I've been on a faith journey. It's been a different one from a lot of people, but at the same time, I think the path I've been on with leadership is interwoven with how I've had my faith development over the years as well as my understanding of faith and of what Jesus is calling me to do has changed.

[00:29:48] My leadership has changed as well, I think. So when you think about [00:30:00] When you think about how most people think about leadership and kind of the message around leadership that you're putting out, what do you see as the biggest disconnect or misalignment between kind of the normal view of leadership and what you're talking about when you talk about leadership?

[00:30:23] Jon Kidwell: I think that we often believe that there is a choice that must be made. People or performance. I got to keep people happy. I need to protect them over here. I have to be all compassion, all care. And you can, what I found is that just doing that won't actually grow. We don't grow in those comfortable kind of convenient [00:31:00] settings that the other side of it is all that later is a jerk.

[00:31:04] They're a boss there. It's only it's just business. There's no people involved. It's the bottom line. And we have a corporate strategy for making the bottom line by laying everybody off every quarter, right? It's we think that there are these two ends of the spectrum these dichotomies that exist.

[00:31:20] And what I would say is that there's another way that perhaps it's a both and that there's this opportunity for leaders to step into. Simple, not easy of deep relationship with an expectation of tremendous results where you care for the people. And you focus on performing really well and that these two things can go together when there are in fact high standards and high support.

[00:31:51] Scott Maderer: Yeah, it's the, you can actually respect the human and have the human moment. And also still say, Yes, but we [00:32:00] also have goals that we have to hit and performance that we have to hit. And those can both be true. I love that you said both. And that one of my favorite expressions is finding the both ends because we often in the world put either or you could do this or that.

[00:32:15] And I think, again, theologically, I think this is partly my faith background. I see that Oftentimes we're called to do both and is the message that we're

[00:32:26] Jon Kidwell: told and grace, right? 100 percent salt and light and this is not a perfect example. And some people might think I made the wrong choice in this example, but I'll give you one that it really, it was painful for me.

[00:32:41] We had a delivery. Like we, we go out and we do training. We get on calls and we do coaching. So there are some things that we have obligated ourselves to other people for. And it's important for us to show up for those. And it's important for us to have the level of material that is so [00:33:00] quality that they experience it, how we want them to experience it.

[00:33:04] And I was on with one of our team members. And she was going through a lot in life, just a tremendous amount of pain in this season and grief and she called me and she was letting me know that it was one of those days, like you're walking with cement blocks, just stapled to your feet. And I did not have the capacity to come in and take off the work that she had for us to finish that day.

[00:33:37] I was not able to do it. I wanted to, I couldn't. It still had to get done. I sat there, we sat, I listened, we connected. She shared those things. took almost every ounce of energy that I had not to say, it's okay. Don't worry about [00:34:00] getting this stuff done. I didn't say it because I didn't see another way for us to be able to do it.

[00:34:06] We finished the call a couple hours later. She said, it's done. We're ready. I'll be on the plane. I'll see you where I'm going to see you the next day. We'd connected on that six months later. And I said, do you remember that? And she's no one, she didn't remember it too. I was like, I do, let me tell you about it.

[00:34:28] And she goes, Oh my goodness, I do remember it now. She goes, here's the thing I needed to work through that. And you allowed me to do that. Now that could have gone very differently and different circumstances, different read you got to play the context of it and follow the heart, the wisdom, the discernment that you have in the moment with all of the information that's going on.

[00:34:50] But what I was. realizing there and what kind of reinforced it for me was sometimes we not sometimes, [00:35:00] let me rephrase that all the time. We need people we need to connect. Sometimes I need to be pulled out of things, but sometimes I actually just need. Empathy and then be allowed to go act and work it out.

[00:35:17] You

[00:35:18] Scott Maderer: She also needed to be heard the length of time that y'all spent talking through the situation without that. And actually that shows a great deal of trust and servant leadership within the organization that she felt comfortable reaching out and saying. It's one of those days. This is where I am today.

[00:35:42] Can you hear me? Can you listen to me? Can you connect with me? And honestly, I would expect that at the end of that call, she was like, there's just no way I'm going to be getting this done. She would have communicated that. And you would have now you're faced with a different decision and a difficult [00:36:00] one, but you at least would have known this is where I'm at.

[00:36:03] And the fact that she said, or at least did, said went back and said, I'm going to take care of this. I'm going to get it done. You could trust that she was going to get it done. It's, there's a lot of trust implied in that conversation that, that shows that the organization had done a good job to build up that level of trust.

[00:36:25] Cause You know, I know employees that work in places where they're like I can't tell my my boss is usually how they phrase it that I'm going through stuff because. They'll use that against me is the feeling real or not. That's the perception of the relationship when you think about some of the things that let's say a leader is hearing some of what we're talking about and is feeling a little convicted right now that maybe they're on one of those two extremes of the continuum that you've been [00:37:00] talking about.

[00:37:01] What are some of the first things that you would recommend that they think about, that they do, that they begin to. To look at to maybe begin to move more towards the both end.

[00:37:13] Jon Kidwell: Great question. Identifying what is really going on, leaders have to be able to meet the demands of reality. And sometimes we have to communicate and set the reality that is.

[00:37:34] And so I think for us to be able to do that, we have to start with what's really going on, whether that is. Getting some feedback from the team on the blind spots or on how I might be showing up, how I might be coming off, whether that is sitting down in your plush blue chair in the corner and doing some reflection and journaling looking back on, interesting, how come every single time I'm in this [00:38:00] meeting and then I say something, nobody says anything else.

[00:38:03] I wonder what's going on, right? Like a little bit of reflection to figure out, okay What is reality? Because as we go through the book, I lay out a tremendous amount of narratives and norms and myths that exist around servant leadership and they create misguided servants instead of true servant leaders.

[00:38:26] And we got to figure out what's really going on. Just like I figured out like, Oh, coming off as not being honest. That. Stinks. It's completely opposite of what I was trying to accomplish, right? Figuring out what is really going on, I'm jumping ahead a little bit because there's a lot of digging there, but then What do you want to do?

[00:38:47] How do you want to do those things? I had to figure out that I don't want to do conflict like a jerk. Everybody in my head did conflict like a jerk. So I had to figure out, [00:39:00] what does it look like? Lots of small itty bitty practice with a target that said, I will do the kind, hard truth with care.

[00:39:09] I'll deliver hard information. with compassion, with care, right? I'm going to make sure that I'm always seeing the person inside of the performance. And then I start stepping into those. Some of them were really good. Some of them not so good. Some of them I was like, I totally was a jerk. That one I need to go apologize about tomorrow.

[00:39:33] I need to check in with that person and I need to course correct next time. But I'm stepping towards the both and and I'm doing the little iterative things like we said, cause like you said earlier, Scott, it's not like straight line. It's, circle up and down and around and back and forth.

[00:39:51] And, but you start moving in those directions. You get people around you by inviting them in to support you, to give you [00:40:00] feedback. You open yourself up to receiving information from them, receiving help from them. And then you continue to walk that out. Small steps serve greatly. They really do. Small steps serve greatly.

[00:40:15] And they reinforce the path that you were trying to go on. And what's really going on? What do I want? How can I start walking this out?

[00:40:28] Scott Maderer: And that's a lot easier said than done, which is one of the reasons that you do the work you do is because you help organizations on that journey, because that is something that is it's definitely, I would say, easier to do with a guide walking with you, a coach, somebody who is able to be there from the outside.

[00:40:51] Side looking in, you're not in the weeds, you're above it. And above's not the right word. Outside of it is a better way. Outside

[00:40:58] Jon Kidwell: of it is a good word.

[00:40:59] Scott Maderer: [00:41:00] Yeah. And able to look in. I know that's been useful for me whenever I've been on those leadership journeys is to have that coach from the outside or that consultant, somebody to come in and help guide the process as well.

[00:41:13] 100%. So as we go through, I've got a few questions that I like to ask all of my guests, but before I ask those, is there anything else about the work you do or the book that you think is really important for the listener

[00:41:26] Jon Kidwell: to hear? I think if anyone has been sitting there either geeking out with Scott or I about this topic or just thinking I do not see how you are connecting this puzzle together and cool, but what's really going on underneath and what are some of the ways that you take a lot of the stuff Scott and I have been talking about, right?

[00:41:47] Definitions and ideas and this, how do you practically walk this out? Grab the book. It does. I, yeah. I am I'm like I opened up with, I'm a [00:42:00] small researcher, maybe even research averse and very practical. I had to be practical for me because I had to turn around and lead a team of 1100 people after I got that level of feedback.

[00:42:13] And I knew I wanted to do it in a certain way. I just had to figure out what that was and what I thought was going to be the best for me to do it as a servant leader that I was hoping to be. And I would encourage anyone that's sitting there one lady wrote in and she goes, this is the book. I didn't know I needed and it's.

[00:42:33] taught me and showed me a path for how to be the leader that I wanted to be. And I was like, that I'm done, right? That's the best thing I could ever hear after writing this. So thank you for that Michelle. She was wonderful. But if anyone was just sitting there thinking some of those things, I would encourage them to go do that.

[00:42:52] Scott Maderer: Absolutely. Absolutely. So my, one of my brands that I run things through is inspired stewardship [00:43:00] and kind of like we've been talking about leadership. Stewardship is another one of those words that a lot of people hear it, but it means completely different things to different people. So when you hear the word stewardship, what does that word mean

[00:43:13] Jon Kidwell: to you?

[00:43:15] I think each of us has been given a gift, a talent, an opportunity, a skill, and we are to use that to serve, to benefit other people as an example of what we care about most. And for me, that's an example of God's varied grace, right? 1 Peter 4 10 is how I am guided and what does it mean to steward?

[00:43:42] Each of us has a gift and we are called to use it as good stewards showing God's varied grace. That is. For me, that, that's it. Absolutely. I love

[00:43:51] Scott Maderer: that. So this is my favorite question that I like to ask everybody. Imagine for a minute that I could embed [00:44:00] this magic machine. And with this machine, I was able to pluck you from where you are today and transport you magically into the future.

[00:44:08] Maybe 150, maybe 250 years. Oh, goodness. But through the power of this machine, you were able to look back and see your entire life and see all of the ripples, all of the connections, all of the impacts you've left behind. What impact do you hope you've left in the world?

[00:44:25] Jon Kidwell: The vision that I have going through a life plan is that when it's all said and done we're going to serve 10 million leaders that we're going to change the cultural narrative around servant leadership. And that we're going to do it in a way that helps people do business and leadership well, and we do it in a way that glorifies and honors God.

[00:44:56] And that's the work side of it. [00:45:00] And I think in and through and all of those things there are also pieces that I have for my children, that my family and I desire to do a tremendous amount of family mission trips all over the world. That If I were to look back and to be able to see, have I used the gifts and talents that I've have in a specific area to glorify God, serve people, love my family and do that well that would be fun.

[00:45:34] I, I, my brain is breaking thinking about all the ripples that could be. So I think if I keep it in on those core things that would be more than an amazing experience.

[00:45:48] Scott Maderer: So what's on the roadmap? What's coming next as you continue on this journey?

[00:45:52] Jon Kidwell: So for us we work primarily with organizations and we say we work [00:46:00] with mission driven organizations, those that do business for more than just the bottom line and and we go in and we train mid level leaders, mid level executives, and we pair all of our training with coaching.

[00:46:14] And one of the projects that we are working on right now. is for executive teams in those organizations to help them put the puzzle together so that they can all align around big picture priorities. And so that then they can align their team and align execution around those same big picture priorities.

[00:46:35] And so we've got some fun stuff cooking there. I don't actually know if we're going to release what it is this year. So I'll take my own advice about surprises, but but we have some cool, fun things going there and hopefully change some of the way, some of the boringness, honestly, of team building and off sites, especially around operational strategy.[00:47:00]

[00:47:00] Scott Maderer: Yeah. Team building and offsites can be really useful and they can also be done really poorly. Having been through a couple of those over the

[00:47:10] Jon Kidwell: years. 100%.

[00:47:14] Scott Maderer: So I'm looking forward to that. Somebody bringing a different spin to some of that I'm sure would be powerful for a lot of teams out there. So that's awesome.

[00:47:23] So you can find out more about John over at his website at leadwell. com. You can find out about the book, his coaching, the speaking and other activities and keep an eye out for what he was just talking about. Of course, I'll have a link to that over in the show notes as well. John, is there anything else you'd like to share with the listener?

[00:47:41] Jon Kidwell: To direct, if you want the easiest way to get to that book, just type in the title. RedefineYourServantLeadership. com It'll point you to where you need to go. And if you want to connect with me, the best spot is on LinkedIn. I do not have an H in my name, so it's just J O N [00:48:00] dot K I D W E L L. And it would be fun to connect there.

[00:48:03] Guess what? I talk all things leadership.

[00:48:07] Scott Maderer: Shocking. Shocking. I know. Awesome. Thanks so much for being here, John. I've really enjoyed the conversation today. Thank you, Scott.

[00:48:20] Thanks so much for listening to the Inspired Stewardship podcast. As a subscriber and listener, we challenge you to not just sit back and passively listen, but act on what you've heard and find a way to live your calling. If you enjoyed this episode please do us a favor. Go over to inspired stewardship.

[00:48:44] com slash. iTunes rate, all one word, iTunes rate. It'll take you through how to leave a rating and review, and how to make sure you're subscribed to the podcast, so that you can get every [00:49:00] episode as it comes out in your feed. Until next time, invest your time, your talent, and your treasures. Develop your influence, and impact the world.


In today's episode, I ask Jon about:

  • What brought him to write his book Redefine Your Servant Leadership...   
  • What he sees as the biggest differences between leadership as it’s traditionally defined and his definition of leadership...
  • How you can begin to move from traditional leadership to true servant leadership...
  • and more.....

Some of the Resources recommended in this episode: 

I make a commission for purchases made through the following link.

We think that there are these two ends of the spectrum these dichotomies that exist. What I would say is that there is another way and that perhaps it’s a both/and.  – Jon Kidwell

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About the author 

Scott

Helping people to be better Stewards of God's gifts. Because Stewardship is about more than money.

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