Covenantal Leadership – Another dimension to Servant Leadership

“Covenants are intensely personal bonds of individuals who engage in intrinsically motivated efforts to achieve common objectives which may not be identified in advance.” – Max De Pree.

We are living in a world where we have a contractual relationship with the company for which we work for. With this relationship no doubt the expectations and objectives are well defined but unless we have a covenantal relationship where everyone will work for a shared purpose and goals, the meaning and fulfillment of work won’t be achieved.

For almost three years now, I am back to back on a container ship which I am serving. Last year, after completing my earned vacation when I joined back I found my first mate to be very efficient. He was timely delivering what was expected out of him. The crew was also delivering what was expected, but I noticed that the crew motivation was not the same, how it used to be during my last tenure on board. No doubt they were delivering was was expected but clearly the motivation was missing. Initially, I thought because of their tenure length they might be tired but after doing my home work I found out that the mate was just using his positional power to get the job done. Instead of seeing glasses half full he saw his team as glasses half empty and clearly his WHAT superseded his HOW.

Once the reason was known, I approached him as a coach and told what Dalai Lama once said, “We cannot and need not eradicate our ego; rather, we must make sure it is a serving ego and not a deserving ego.” I made my point clear about how I felt and told him that for short term his win-lose mindset might work but for long run it will surely take us to a lose-lose situation. Though it was hard to take him from his conventional – autocratic and hierarchical model to this new concept of convenantal relationship but somehow we worked together and managed to keep this dimension of servant leadership at the helm.

In 2006, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, wrote an open letter to his employees. In his letter he said, “I am now 53 years old and I have reached a place in my life where I no longer want to work for money, but simply for the joy of the work itself and to better answer the call to service that I feel so clearly in my own heart.” He then reduced his salary to 1$ a year. Later he also set up a 100,000$ emergency fund for staff facing personal problems and donated his stock portfolio to charity. Mackey’s delibrate act made it clear that how you are doing your business equally matters than just doing the business.

His covenantal relationship with his employees clearly showed that they are valued. This in turn leads to trust where employee can serve and support each other and also leads to loyalty towards the company. In this relationship people acknowledges each other weaknesses and lifts each other to become what they are capable of becoming. As Max De Pree in his book ‘Leadership is an art’ said, “Our system of values may not be generic. It must be explicit. The system and the covenant around it makes it possible for us to work together, not perfectly to be sure, but nevertheless in a way that enables us to have the potential to be a gift to the spirit.”

Covenants are not trapped by the glitters and glamours of status quo and the power associated with it. For them the power that matters is the power of character, of values and vision. A workplace can’t be much better where every employee acts as if they own the place which make covenantal relationship matters much more than ever. Only when we deliberately keep it at the helm, can we reach new stratosphere of success but also happiness and fulfillment at work.

Published by Harsh Pandey

A shapeless Pigmy searching for his own awakening. Otherwise, I am a master mariner, commanding merchant ships on international voyages.

One thought on “Covenantal Leadership – Another dimension to Servant Leadership

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: