Service Leadership Lessons from Kaja & Adam

As much of an Apple fan as I am, their Podcast interface on iOS is painful. I am usually listening in the morning, half awake and in the poor light in our basement gym. Its inability to list episodes from first released to most recent puts a real dent in my ability to follow a season chronologically. I am constantly scrolling, switching — and cursing — to get the next episode in the series, not the most recently posted. 

This week, the crappy UX paid off when I accidentally grabbed a more recent version of Re:Thinking by Adam Grant.  In this episode, he is talking with Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas who is a brilliant mind, leader and is literally on the front lines of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If you can read Estonian, her personal website is here

The entire series is a great listen and the January 31/23 episode featuring Kaja stood out for me. Thinking globally, her insights on what it will take to defeat Putin are very interesting and a reminder that we have to acknowledge our own bias when understanding how other cultures view the world. Her personal and cultural background with Russia is an insight other world leaders should learning from. Apparently, it is not just ego driving his decisions.

On a more personal level, a few learnings I took away from the conversation between Kaja and Adam:

How Service Leaders can support women

As we have written about in the past, the barriers and expectations of women to run and stay in elected office far outweigh those of men. Kaja’s story about being asked by the media FIVE times if she cried as prime minister is ridiculous. And her response of asking if they have shared that same question with male prime ministers is brilliant. (And telling that the answer is, no).  

When asked for advice for women who want to step into leadership I liked her response ‘don’t fight alone.’ Meaning that women should be looking for allies in the spaces they are in. Of course, that is only part of the equation to make that work. The rest of us need to step into our Service Leadership and actively look for ways to be of service to others. As good allies, we need to remind ourselves this is not about unsolicited help or telling someone what they need. It is asking if and how we can be of support to their needs and goals. 

Why asking for help gets sh*t done

Grant (who loves to quote research!) pointed to a study that said somewhere between 75 and 90% of all helping behaviour in a workplace starts with an ask: “here is my challenge, can you help me?” I love this and have been sharing this concept in a number of recent group coaching sessions. Asking for help (even in small ways) helps build cultures of trust and allows others to flex their service muscles. This is the core magic of good service: We are doing others a favour when we ask them to help us. #ThePowerOfService

About the power of a growth mindset

I heard this tip first from my talented wife Melanie who is a gifted and celebrated primary teacher with a love and passion for early literacy. She will often encourage her students to add ‘yet’ to the end of a sentence. For example, when they say, “I can’t read that book” she will add ‘yet’. It’s a reminder that we all have learning to do and there is nothing wrong in admitting as much. 

Kaja used the exact same line when talking about how she prepared for question and answer sessions in Parliament. She was equally enthusiastic about putting a lens of curiosity on those occasions when she didn’t know something. It wasn’t something to be embarrassed about or step away from. Service Leaders put up their hands to ask more questions. 

Lots more insights from the episode. You can listen and reach the transcript here

How can we be of service?

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