How Being Democratic Aligns With Servant Leadership

How Being Democratic Aligns With Servant Leadership

WD-40 CEO Garry Ridge shares how the two leadership approaches complement one another

Garry Ridge says one of the greatest rewards a leader can receive is to see others become better than they were when the leader first touched them.

Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, says when things are going right great leaders look out, and when things are going wrong they look in.

“One of the greatest gifts you get for practising servant leadership is the gift of seeing others performing personal magnificence on a daily basis and growing and making the world a better place,” he tells Axiom News.

Servant leadership is about the sheep being more important than the shepherd, says Ridge, noting that’s why he thinks the company likes the approach.

“We call ourselves a tribe at WD-40 Company, not a team, because we believe the tribal environment is more like that type of environment where we do care about our people,” says Ridge.

San Diego-based WD-40 is a WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces 2011 winner.

When asked what correlations he sees between workplace democracy and servant leadership, he points towards WorldBlu’s 10 principles of organizational democracy.

The first democratic principle is purpose and vision, where the organization is clear about why it exists and what it hopes to achieve. Ridge says organizations that practise servant leadership have a purpose and have vision.

Another democratic principle is transparency. Servant leaders leave the ego behind and need to act without the fear of having to hide, says Ridge.

Dialogue and listening, another democratic principle, complements servant leadership as people are treated fairly and with dignity, he says.

Another alignment is the principle of accountability. Ridge says servant leaders are there not only for themselves but for the whole of the people.

“The shepherd is there on behalf of the sheep, the sheep aren’t there on behalf of the shepherd so again that’s a very big pillar in a democratic organization,” he says.

Reflection and evaluation is a democratic principle, and Ridge says servant leadership is about learning and teaching.

Ridge has a list of the 10 Traits of Leadership. Among them is that leaders always stay in servant leadership mode, and remember that every day when they get up they are to serve the people that have chosen to follow them.

If workplace democracy and servant leadership were the norm in all businesses, Ridge says in the souls of business you would find people being put in the positions where “they’re out give the very best they can.”

Ridge says reality is that isn’t going to happen, but “the more we try to make it happen the better the world will be.”

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Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

Contact Jennifer:, or 705-741-4421 ext. 26.

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