Servant leadership

Servant leadership is an approach to leadership development, coined and defined by Robert Greenleaf and advanced by several authors such as Stephen Covey, Peter Block, Peter Senge, Max DePree, Margaret Wheatley, Ken Blanchard, and others. Servant-leadership emphasizes the leader's role as "steward" of the resources (human, financial and otherwise) provided by the organization. It encourages leaders to serve others while staying focused on achieving results in line with the organization's values and integrity.

Concept of Servant Leadership

The modern concept of Servant Leadership started with Robert Greenleaf, who published his essay, "The Servant as Leader" in 1970. This led to further essays from Greenleaf, and further works from others, especially in recent years.

However, the concept is thousands of years older than this. Chanakya or Kautilya, the famous strategic thinker from ancient India, wrote about servant leadership in his 4th century B.C. book Arthashastra:

"the king [leader] shall consider as good, not what pleases himself but what pleases his subjects [followers] "

"the king [leader] is a paid servant and enjoys the resources of the state together with the people".

In approximately 600 B.C., the Chinese sage Lao Tzu wrote "The Tao Te Ching", a strategic treatise on servant leadership:

The greatest leader forgets himself
And attends to the development of others.

Good leaders support excellent workers.
Great leaders support the bottom ten percent.
Great leaders know that
The diamond in the rough
Is always found “in the rough.”

(Quote from [ "The Way of Leading People: Unlocking Your Integral Leadership with the Tao Te Ching".] )

The concept of servant leadership in the west can be traced back, at least partly, to Jesus, who taught his disciples that

"You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45)

Many institutions and individuals have adapted the Servant Leadership approach to Christian spirituality. Most notably, Timothy H. Warneka has applied the Servant Leadership perspective to the Roman Catholic tradition in his book, "Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader: An Introduction to Catholic Servant Leadership".

Robert Greenleaf is recognized as the father of servant leadership. Greenleaf (1977) described servant leadership in this manner:

"It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead…The difference manifest itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons, do they grow while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?"

Through extensive work with Greenleaf, Larry Spears, the director of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, identified ten characteristics, which describe the essence of a servant leader. The characteristics are listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others, and building community. Several educational theorists, such as Bolman, Deal, Covey, Fullan, Sergiovanni, and Heifetz also reference these characteristics as essential components to effective leadership.

Servant Leadership is also the main principle concept behind the film, "The Emperor's Club", that shows the relation of a teacher and student after years of distinctive differences in their ambitions and philosophies on life. Servant Leadership in the film, teaches how "it is not living that is important, but living rightly". In such a context, "The Emperor's Club" clearly defines "right" and brings out its moral implications on a heavily mortalised world.

Unlike leadership approaches with a top-down hierarchical style, Servant Leadership instead emphasizes collaboration, trust, empathy, and the ethical use of power. At heart, the individual is a servant first, making the conscious decision to lead in order to better serve others, not to increase their own power. The objective is to enhance the growth of individuals in the organization and increase teamwork and personal involvement.

Further reading

* Trevor M. Hall, ed. "Becoming Authentic: The Search for Wholeness and Calling as a Servant Leader" (2007) ISBN 978-1-929569-36-6
* Robert Greenleaf. "Servant Leadership" ISBN 0-8091-0554-3
* Peter Block. "Stewardship" ISBN 1-881052-86-9
* James Autry. "The Servant Leader" ISBN 1-400054-73-7
* Larry Spears, ed. "Reflections on Leadership" ISBN 0-471-03686-2
* Larry Spears, ed. "Insights on Leadership" ISBN 0-471-17634-6
* Larry Spears, ed. "Focus on Leadership" ISBN 0-471-41162-0
* Larry Spears & Michele Lawrence, ed. "Practicing Servant-Leadership" ISBN 0-7879-7455-2
* James Hunter. "the Servant" ISBN 0-761513-69-8
* James Hunter. "The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principle" ISBN 1-578569-75-3
* Bruce E. Winston, "Be a Leader for God's Sake" ISBN 0-9725819-0-1
* Ken Blanchard, ed., "Lead Like Jesus"
* John J. Sullivan, "Servant First! Leadership for the New Millennium" ISBN 1-594672-27-X
* Kent Halstead, "Servant Leadership for Congregations"
* Timothy H. Warneka, "Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader: An Introduction to Catholic Servant Leadership" ISBN 978-0-9768627-9-6
* Max DePree, "Leadership is an Art"
* Tom Marshall. "Understanding Leadership: Fresh Perspectives on the Essentials of New Testament Leadership" ISBN 1-85240-053-6

External links

* [ The Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership]
* [ Servant Leadership Resources] from the Master of Arts in Leadership program at Trinity Western University
* [ Servant Leader chairs]
* [ Viterbo University's MA in Servant-Leadership]
* [ Article at Leadership Now]
* [ Article at The Academy for Chief Executives]
* [ San Diego Leadership Initiative]
* [ "Practicing Servant-Leadership" by Larry Spears]
* [ Political Servant Leadership]
* [ Global Dharma Center/Center for Dharmic Leadership] a not-for-profit organisation providing (free) articles, research publications and training modules on Culture Development, Individual/Organisation Transformation and, Serving and Leading from a spiritual context.
* Regent University's School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship holds a Servant Leadership Research Roundtable each year for folk to gather and discuss current servant leadership research. Online proceedings are available.
* [ The Swadhyay Movement]
* [ The Peter R. Marsh Foundation] The Peter R. Marsh Foundation promotes Servant First Leadership in the Pacific Northwest Region of the United States through training, coaching and knowledge resources.
* [ ServantLeader Ministries] conducts leadership seminars worldwide on the philosophy of servant leadership as taught and practiced by Jesus Christ.
* [ Servant Leadership for Congregations] Free downloadable book.
* [ Catholic Servant Leadership] provides keynote speeches & leadership seminars for emerging student leaders at Catholic colleges, Catholic universities, as well as for lay and religious adults in Roman Catholic parishes, organizations, conferences and associations.

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