Embracing Servant Leadership as the CFO

Dave Sackett

CFO at ULVAC Technologies

Learning Objectives

Servant Leadership is an effective way to create harmony in the workforce to promote good results from your teams. While not widely practiced by CFOs, there is merit to investigate if this leadership style matches your goals for your organization. Leading teams with empathy and supporting your team has become more popular in light of the current world crisis. Be the leader you want to be and put Servant Leadership into practice. You will also hear some downside to the servant leader model, but that should not hold you back if you find servant leadership is the management style for you to adopt.

Key Takeaways:

  • What is Servant Leadership?

  • How will Servant Leadership be helpful to meet goals?

  • Understanding the ten concepts of servant leadership to pursue

"It didn't matter if they were in a competing department, if they were the highest President or the lowest mailroom, it didn't matter."

Dave Sackett

CFO at ULVAC Technologies


Hi, my name is Dave Sackett. I’m the CFO at All Back Technologies Inc. I’m here to present embracing servant leadership as the CFO. I’m very glad you’re watching this, and you have an interest in servant leadership.

So here’s the agenda. What is servant leadership, what are the 10 principles behind servant leadership, my journey to CFO while practicing servant leadership principles, and why should [inaudible] you should be practiced by CFOs today, a sample of servant leadership technique, the pros and cons of servant leadership as a CFO, and additional resources.

So what is servant leadership? It’s a philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve. It’s to support your employees. It’s to give them resources. It’s to act more as a coach. It’s to use your experience to help your team. It’s to have them bounce ideas off of you. It’s have an open door policy. It’s a way that you really empower your teams to succeed and meet company goals. It’s no longer you as the most important person in the company to achieve goals, it now belongs to your team. It’s time for servant leadership to give that glory to someone else.

Servant leadership can be considered a universal concept. It has roots in both Eastern and Western cultures. In the East, leadership scholars point to the Chinese philosophers of the fifth century, such as lousy reasserted that when the best leaders finished the work that people would say, “We did it ourselves.” That’s really what servant leadership is about, it’s teamwork. It’s making sure the team succeeds, the team has a sense of fulfillment in that work, and that they were a big part of the solution. You don’t want your team to say that they were alive in the team leader. It’s a more cooperative and more collaborative way to achieve goals.

This slide shows you an upside down model of the traditional leadership. Traditionally, we’re taught is the leader at the top, and the managers below that, employees below that to deal with customers. Servant leadership flips that upside down. Now, the role as a servant leader is to support your management, give them resources, give them help, give them what they need, and then help their employees. Those managers, if they’re also practicing servant leadership, try to give that role to the employees and give their support so that they’re successful to make customers successful, and to have a good interaction with customers. I’m not saying one’s right or wrong. This is just traditional versus the servant leadership model. The idea is to share power of your team and give them the chance for success.

The ten principles of servant leadership. Listening, maybe the number one, I think, on this list. It’s not just to hear them, but really understand where someone’s coming from, try to figure out what this person’s communicating, why they’re saying it the way they say. It’s really to intently listen to understand, not just to listen for listening sake, but you really want to know where the employees coming from. Empathy is key. You hear that all the time. Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, being able to understand what it was like when you were in that role.

Healing. It’s basically fixing the organization. It’s mending relationships. It’s keeping harmony and balance in your organization. The awareness. That’s being aware of what’s happening around you, other places of the company. What’s happening in the future? What’s happened in the past? What should you be focused on, or what should your team be focused on?


Persuasion. You’re the leader, you don’t just say, “Go do,” as a servant leadership, you want to persuade. You want to listen to arguments that may be different from yours, and you want to be persuasive with your team to kind of show the right path for the team to succeed. So it’s very much the leader helping the team conceptualization. It’s to be able to take an idea, and see how it’s going to impact the organization. It’s the ability to have foresight and to look ahead, what are today’s decisions going to mean for the future? What problems you’re solving today, and what are the problems you’re going to need to solve in the future?


Stewardship. It’s a way to keep harmony and within the company. We have this responsibility in making sure that the organization moves forward. Commitment to employee growth. This is key. This is making sure that employees don’t kind of get stuck in a rut. They’re constantly challenged. They have an opportunity to learn. You should be sharing all your knowledge with them in terms of giving them opportunities to learn from you, but then also from other places and other resources. Giving them a chance to grow, whether that part of the growth if they outgrow your company, and now they want to go on to something else. As a servant leader, you should celebrate that. You should want your employees to succeed, whether it’s at your own company or somewhere else.


Building community. I think servant leaders try to make a more harmonious company. They try to be inclusive, they try to involve other departments. They don’t blindly make decisions without talking to people. There’s a sense of community within the company. This is a quote from Gandhi, “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles, but today, it means getting along with people.” Rhat’s been my experiences. The more you can get along with other departments, know where they’re coming from, know what their goals and missions are, and if you can work together, it makes something great.


So my unusual journey to servant leadership. A social style is friendly, fair. I’m a good listener, respectful, honest, and introverted. I learned about behaviors of those who are laid off or fired for me. I’ve been at my company more than 20 years. I started as a Cost Accountant to work my way up to CFO. I became valuable by helping others regardless of corporate status. It didn’t matter if they were in a competing department, if they were the highest President or the lowest mailroom, it didn’t matter. My role was to just be helpful to everyone in my company.


I accept the high profile challenges project leader, I did an ERP conversion. I got promoted from that. I coached my replacement so that I could still advance, so that I was leaving a gap of skills behind. I delegated responsibilities that gave me past glory to advance. Now, I’m more of a coach to my team to win. I give them the projects that will give them notice to the parent company into the CEO.


Now, top workforce skills. Artificial intelligence or AI will change how we work. These skills are predicted to be in demand as automation is to complement AI. So people need to have complex problem solving skills. They need to be creative. They have to have strong ethical values, openness to change, collaboration, emotional intelligence, good judgment, empathy, enthusiasm to diversity, and good management. Now. what you’ll notice with this list, it very much sounds like servant leadership. Some of the things I’ve been talking about already kind of map into these top future workforce skills. As AI advances, it’s going to be able to do a lot of problem solving, but not complex problem solving. It’s going to be programmed to do things. It’s not going to have creativity that a human would have. It’s not going to know right from wrong. That’s your job. That’s where the ethics come in. So this list is pretty much created so that humans and AI work together in a solution. It’s where AI is weak. AI won’t be able to do these things on this list, whereas a human would.


[Inaudible] practice today. Main reason? New generations of workers will influence how work is done. The world’s changing, technology is changing rapidly fast. Servant leaders can influence workplace harmony. Servant leaders appeared to be better suited for future management. So as new generations go into the workforce, they’re not going to have the same experience I had when I was entering the workforce. I think what people need today, they need guidance. They need a map of where their future is. They need a mission. They need to feel valuable very early on. If people aren’t feeling that at their job, they’ll tend to move on. So to avoid turnover, to kind of keep a good company, keep the good people you want. I think servant leadership gives you an advantage over a traditional leader.


Here’s a simple action plan based on servant leadership. Practice active listening. So that’s to listen to understand. Engage with questions. Don’t just blindly take information, really push back. Why is this have to be done? Why does have to be done now? What other things have you thought of? The servant leader doesn’t mean that they just do a rubber stamp and say whatever you want you get, you have to earn it. You have to really convince that servant leader that it’s worth going in that direction.


Respect their competence. It means if you have a difference of opinion, give them a shot. If they try to be objective about it and see does, which idea is really better. Just because you’re a leader, doesn’t mean you have all the good ideas. Approach that as an equal, consider your personal biases, and still maintain a positive environment. So with servant leaders, I think it’s a kinder way to be, I think it’s a nicer way to be. You spend a lot of time at work to try to make it a good environment, I think, is a good goal.


The downside of servant leadership as a CFO. It’s difficult to implement, and servant leadership doesn’t have a wide appeal yet. A servant leadership style could be conflicting with a new CEO or board of directors. It can be seen as weak by others who can’t see the strength that servant leadership holds. Decisions can take longer to get consensus on the right choice. The role of the leader can be seen as less important. One thing I have down here is that if you’re used to getting your way all the time as the leader, you should not count on that in the future with servant leadership. The idea is that you don’t have the right ideas all the time. You want your team to be empowered to come up with good ideas, get the credit, have the achievements of those ideas.


This is going to be the next Quartz CONNECT CFO Leadership Summit in Las Vegas. Additional resources on servant leadership are these links. In addition to servant leadership, I talked on the fourth industrial revolution technologies, which are AI, RPA, blockchain, VR, smart manufacturing. Feel free to link with me on LinkedIn, send me an email, especially if you have anything to do about servant leadership. It’s one of my passions. It’s something that I think more people should be—servant leaders. If I can give people resources, give people coaching, please let me know.


That ends my powerpoint session. Now, as part of the Quartz Network, I’ve got a couple questions for the audience. Based on what I’ve talked about, what part of servant leadership appeals to you the most? What part of servant leadership appeals to you the least? What do you think personally would be the most challenging aspect of servant leadership and applying it at your company or organization?


I hope you enjoyed this webinar. I hope you know people out there recognize that they are, in fact, servant leaders. That’s one of the reasons how I found out. I was in a CFO conference, and someone was talking about servant leadership, and I was like, “Hey, wait a second. That’s what I tried to do. Those are my goals too.” So if this movement takes off, and there’s more servant leaders, I think the world’s a better place. Thank you for watching.

Get full Q/N Access

Sign up to Q/N with a few details to watch this presentation.

  • Hidden
  • Hidden