Moving from Avoiding to Speaking the Truth in Love: Part Two

Paul continues to inspire us that speaking the truth in love supports us in living as people full of God’s light. In fact, speaking loving truth leads to right thinking, understanding, closeness with God, closeness with others, soft heartedness, a good conscience, and redemption. These behaviors bring light and life to our lives as well as to the lives of others. Paul implies that getting things out in the open ought to be for these purposes, to build others up, and to rid ourselves of negative feelings and motives towards one another. Speaking up can also free us from withholding forgiveness as we seek understanding. I am struck by God’s goodness that comes with this quest to speak up to one another!

From my experience, the practical benefits to individuals and groups for speaking up are extensive. As a developer of principled leaders and learning organizations, I see the payoff day in and day out to the individual and to the organization for speaking the truth in love. We are finding that organizational health begins with clarity that instills integrity in the organization. It actually appears that truthful discussion can lead to progressive change. An honest conversation can be the spark that begins real positive movement in the life of an individual, in a group and in an organization. A number of honest conversations can actually build momentum. In the workplace, ministry, family life, and in our communities, I see the positive impact of speaking the truth in love to one another.

Seeking God for how and when we have these conversations is important. We need to move from seeing our anxiety in the short-term to believing in the long lasting benefits God has for us and for the groups we serve. Reminding ourselves that God is present with us and He is ready to lead us is reassuring. The vision is to move from avoiding the conversation to seeing the necessity of having it. The purpose is to honor and glorify God by investing truth into individuals, groups and organizations. The goal is to build us up into safer and healthier individuals and communities of light and life as Paul encourages. In following through, we bring greater truth into our lives and into the lives of our families, communities, workplaces and churches. This is so important to God’s redemptive plan and purposes. Let’s not let our communities blow up; rather let’s build them up by speaking the truth in love to one another!

Question for discussion: How does this blog post impact you? Is there a place where you need to speak up? What will you do next?

Dr. Jeanine Parolini, PhD, MBA, MA

Phone: 651-295-6044
Social Media: or

Moving from Avoiding to Speaking the Truth in Love: Part One

Coming to terms with when to speak up about a topic and when to be silent can be a challenge! In a world that pulls at us with constant distractions and frequent interruptions, it can be difficult to find the time to reflect on our relationships. It takes time and energy to uncover what is going on in our hearts, and our energy and time can get consumed by other necessary priorities. Also, fear or anxiety around what to say and how to say it may keep us from speaking up. The worry of making a mistake or being misunderstood may be too great to face the conversation. For most of us, speaking up is too risky, costly, draining and too time consuming. From my observations, avoiding hard conversations seems to be a normal human response.

So let’s normalize it. It’s human to not want to speak up about something that’s uncomfortable and could cause further discomfort or that has the potential to come in-between relationships. Some of us have experienced the consequences of these attempts and it’s been very painful. We may have lost or broken relationships because of trying to do what seemed right at the time. For one reason or another, most of us don’t like the thought of speaking up and will do everything we can to avoid it.

At the same time, God always has more for us than our natural human response. He is out for our redemption. On the one hand, thank God for that! We have hope in our humanness. On the other hand, what does redemption have to do with this topic?

Even around a seemingly small matter like speaking up, Jesus turns things around and upside down! I love what Jesus envisions for us even though it can be hard to do. His purpose is to revitalize people and situations. It is so important to us, to our relationship, and to our Christian community that we don’t want to miss what God is up to here.

Throughout Ephesians 4, Paul discusses speaking the truth in love, and he connects that with our growth, unity and overcoming a destabilizing lack of truth. In verse 14, he compares and contrasts infancy and maturity related to speaking the truth in love. Those who are early in their faith unwisely avoid it and those who are mature wisely engage in speaking truth. Paul goes on to discuss how we end up “tossed around by the wind and waves” when we avoid speaking truth to one another. This means we can become uncertain, not solidly founded, confused, and even chaotic. Truth can get lost in the midst of untruth, lies and deception. People, groups and organizations can lose their way as the darkness of this dynamic overtakes them. Rather, we are to speak the truth in love to one another to grow individually and together. As we do this, we can continue to move in a principled, unified and solid direction.

Dr. Jeanine Parolini, PhD, MBA, MA

Phone: 651-295-6044
Social Media: or

Transformational Servant Leadership – Part 6: Next steps

Thank you for taking the transformational servant leadership assessment. It is through assessing ourselves that we begin to know where to take our next steps.

Depending on your preference, go back to review the questions in the assessment or the integrated model in part four to determine the questions where you expressed your preference for either transformational or servant leadership. Notice where your strengths are for your preferred style. How are your strengths being expressed in your current place of work or service? Are there ways in which you can express those strengths even more? Now also consider, is there a person or team member who can support you in bringing in the other leadership style in what you do? What can you do to bring this person in to the mix to enhance the overall leadership dynamic toward transformational servant leadership?

For example, my preference in all five questions is toward transformational leadership. I am skilled in seeing the big picture, leading with vision and inspiration, and have people experience movement toward something with me. Yet I have to be watchful of getting too far ahead of the individuals on the team, pushing them too hard to move and align together, and expecting them to process and act too quickly. So I need those servant leaders on my team helping me to lead by paying attention to where each team member is at and providing that nuanced care for each person. I’ve learned from servant leaders to slow down, be patient, and to process more with individuals on the team so they can find their own connection to the overall vision and movement without feeling rushed or forced. If I rush or force them, they will lose touch with the direction at some point and momentum will break down.

Therefore, we can enhance our growth by being sure to engage our strengths, engaging people who have the other preference, and learning new skills from them that are not as natural for us. In this way, we engage more leaders in a collaborative movement together rather than trying to lead on our own, which can cause some type of imbalance in the team or organization. Leadership imbalances can eventually negatively impact organizational members and the overall organization. For further information, contact me at to set up a complimentary telephone call to discuss your coaching or consulting needs.

Transformational Servant Leadership – Part 5: Assessing your style

In my quantitative research of over 400 leaders (Parolini, 2007), I found five items that distinguish between transformational and servant leadership. Assessing our individual leadership is primary and the first step. We need to understand our preference towards one or the other to then know how to work with other leaders and balance out both styles in our overall leadership. Please watch this nine minute video to assess your preference for either transformation or servant leadership to support you as you integrate transformational servant leadership into your own leadership style, team, community or organization.

Transformational servant leadership assessment link:

Questions for interaction:

Is your preference for transformational or servant leadership? How do you see your preference play out in your current role? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your style? How can the other style help to balance out your style? What additional questions or comments do you have?

Transformational Servant Leadership – Part 4: Integration

Transformational servant leadership describes the integration of both transformational (vision) and servant (care) leadership styles to meet the needs of both the organization and the individual members, to attend to both serving and leading others, to balance loyalty between both the organization and organizational members, to influence through both service and traditional charisma/inspiration, and to offer both autonomy and interdependence to organizational members. Imagine the balance, collaboration, and health that would be possible in our organizations if we could manage both transformational and servant leadership. Figure 1 (Parolini, 2012) offers a visual representation of the integration of servant and transformational leadership into transformational servant leadership:

Figure 1. The Integrated Model of Transformational Servant Leadership (Parolini, 2012)

As we view this model, we can see that transformational servant leadership takes into account the key distinctions of both servant and transformational leadership theory to offer a combined model that balances the strengths and weaknesses of each one to improve organizational functioning. As leaders are able to manage the intentional uses of both styles through transformational servant leadership, it is proposed that individual and organizational health will improve and contribute to organizational success.

To takes steps toward integrating the two styles, I suggest you (1) assess your own leadership style preference (please go on to Part 5 to do that), (2) notice the use or nonexistence of transformational and servant leadership in different leadership environments, (3) reflect upon how the use and balance of transformational servant leadership could contribute positively to circumstances around you, and (4) look into reading my book and/or contacting me for coaching or training to develop your skill level.

Questions for interaction:

What is your response to this proposed model? How can you apply this in your leadership and/or organizational setting? What additional questions or comments do you have?

Next, read, watch and respond in Part 5 to assess your preference for either transformational or servant leadership to give you a view toward how to balance the two in your setting.

Transformational Servant Leadership – Part 3 Examples from experiences of transformational and servant leadership integrating well together

Next let’s consider two real life examples of organizations that had the presence of both transformational and servant leadership, and were integrating the use of both styles into the life of the organization.

In one organization, the CEO was a servant leader primarily yet showed a strong value for transformational leadership. This organization weathered the storms of a struggling economy even in the midst of great hits to their industry. Because of this servant leader CEO, this organization offered a warm, friendly, and supportive climate. Thus, employees tended to remain with this organization until retirement. At the same time, the CEO realized the lack of and need for vision, and therefore brought in support from the outside to help the executive team innovate, create, and cast an improved vision. The CEO’s appreciation for transformational leadership, awareness of the impact of its lacking within the organization, and willingness to get help to bring transformational leadership into the organization helped this organization to survive turbulent times.

The second organization was also experiencing chaotic times due to the economy as well as a recent succession. The original leader was a transformational leader yet the organization saw the need to bring balance into the culture by introducing a servant leader into it. The servant leader successor saw the need for transformational leadership to continue, especially in the midst of the great need for a new vision. Therefore the servant leader successor put together a team with both transformational and servant leadership skills. This team worked on recreating the organization. This servant leader played a significant role as a calming presence in the midst of turbulent times as well as during a time when organizational renewal was on the horizon.

Questions for interaction:

Have you experienced a leader or organization that was able to balance both transformational and servant leadership? If so, what was it like? If not, as you read the examples, what struck you about the balance and why? What additional insights do you have to share?

Next, read and respond to Part 4 to begin to see how to integrate the two styles in your leadership or organizational setting.

Transformational Servant Leadership – Part 2: Examples from experiences of transformational and servant leadership not integrating well

Consider these three real life examples from my experiences and observations with transformational and servant leaders not “playing” or integrating well together. It creates some type of extreme imbalance within an organization when this dynamic takes place. See if you can relate to any of these examples in your own places of work or service.

The first example is of an organization where transformational leadership was the primary style of the original leader. Therefore, this leader provided strong vision and direction for the organization that contributed to organizational success and a strong reputation. At the same time, the accepted leadership of the organization was so bent in the direction of transformational leadership that organizational members suffered from burnout and succession planning proved difficult. The organization lacked servant leadership which would have helped to pay attention to individual stress levels and a healthier rhythm of organizational life for organizational members. Over time, this transformational leader acquired so much individual power within the organization that it resulted in traumatic moral failure that harmed a large number of people within and outside of the organization.

The second example is of an organization where servant leadership was the primary style of the original leader and the successor. While care and concern for organizational members seemed to be in place, the organization lacked vision and direction. It was unclear to the members what the direction and values were of the organization. This dynamic created confusion and chaos within the organization and among its members. As the lack of vision and direction continued, a strong culture of infighting and competition developed within the organization. The lack of transformational leadership contributed to chaos, confusion, conflict, and rivalry within this organization.

In this next example, the Board of Directors represented transformational leadership in the organization by rallying for a compelling vision and direction for the organization. On the other hand, the CEO of the organization and his primary associate both represented servant leadership as a means of contributing to the lives of employees and the community served through the organization. Unfortunately, a conflict avoidance culture existed in this organization which contributed to the sense that one perspective had to be right while the other was wrong. It seemed the perspective of the Board of Directors won in this situation and the environment valued transformational leadership over servant leadership. Tactics such as force, bullying, and inappropriate uses of power were utilized to compel others to “move forward” with the vision while motivation was low. The lack of integrated transformational and servant leadership caused a power struggle which led the organization to remain stuck for a many years.

Questions for interaction:

What has your experience been with an imbalance of these two leadership styles? What is it in these examples that you can relate to from your own experience? What additional insights do you have to share?

Next, read and respond to Part 3 to reflect upon examples of leaders that balance the two styles.

Transformational Servant Leadership – Part 1: Introduction

More than ever leaders are under intense scrutiny and pressure to bring their organizations to a level of innovation and performance within this challenging global economy and marketplace. In responding to the burdens on leaders and organizations, there is a growing need for models of leadership with more than one leader at the helm. This post introduces transformational servant leadership that blends two well recognized styles of leaders to meet today’s demands for leadership.

In working with thousands of leaders in hundreds of organizations, I’m finding that healthy and innovative leaders balance two things: vision and care. Transformational servant leadership does both. These leaders “cast a collaborative moral vision while actively caring for those participating in moving the vision to reality” (Parolini, 2012). These leaders don’t zoom ahead while leaving others in their wake. They understand this really doesn’t accomplish any kind of consistent movement at all. They also don’t serve an end goal of solely caring for people without spurring the team on to greater accomplishments. There is a balance with transformational servant leaders between moving ahead and nurturing the people who are bringing about the movement.

Questions for interaction:

Have you experienced a leader who you felt both spurred you on to a greater vision and cared for you along the way, truly cared? Or have you experienced a leader who is good at one yet not so good at the other (example: had a great vision yet little concern for people or had great concern for people yet little overall direction)? What has your experience been like?

Next, read and respond to Part 2 to take this concept deeper by looking at real life examples.