Servant leadership is one of the predominately recognized and researched leadership perspectives. Though research on servant leadership was recently conducted and did not occur at its formulation by Robert K. Greenleaf (1970). Greenleaf described servant leadership as the behaviors demonstrated by a leader that place followers first, which are supportive of follower development, and do not affect the least privileged in society, Greenleaf (1970) (as cited in Northouse, 2016). The first major research into servant leadership determined ten characteristics central to the development of servant leadership, listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community (Spears, 2002). The most recent research on servant leadership, building on years of servant leadership research, has conceptualized an empirically supported and refined model of servant leadership (Liden, Panaccio, Meuser, Hu, & Wayne, 2014). The refined servant leadership model determined seven leadership behaviors indicative of the servant leadership process. The leadership style implemented by my current organization and therefore by me as a construction project manager, is representative of these seven servant leadership behaviors. However, in my experience with my current organization, the application of servant leadership behaviors is not effective with some followers’ development.
The seven core servant leadership behaviors are as follows, conceptualizing, emotional healing, putting followers first, helping followers grow and succeed, behaving ethically, empowering, and creating value for the community (Liden et al., 2014). Conceptualizing represents a leader’s thorough understanding of their organization, which allows a leader to adequately address problems according to organizational goals (Northouse, 2016). Many teams and phases are involved in the construction of neighborhoods. When problems occur during a particular phase, it is my responsibility to know how a particular setback will affect the goal attainment process, creatively find a solution, and insure that long-term organizational goals are still met. Emotional healing involves being sensitive to the well-being of others and a willingness to help others resolve problems (Northouse, 2016). At a personal level, various followers have been assisted with enrolling in various forms of personal counseling programs. At an organizational level, followers are provided water during the summer and propane heaters during the winter at an expense to the organization. Putting followers first consists of placing follower concerns and needs above the leaders (Northouse, 2016). Many times throughout a work week I stop what I am doing and tend to the concerns of the teams for which I am responsible. Helping followers grow and succeed involves understanding follower goals and assisting followers in accomplishing those goals both personally and professionally (Northouse, 2016). My organization provides followers with the opportunities for continued technical training and provided with retirement investing counseling. Behaving ethically represents doing what is right, included such ethical standards as honesty and fairness (Northouse, 2016). My organization does not allow short-cuts to be taken, and prides itself on its community responsibility and quality of product. Empowering consists of the sharing of leadership, allowing followers to be self-sufficient and make decisions (Northouse, 2016). Each team or trade is a satellite division of the organization, each responsible for creating schedules, and maintaining deadlines. Each team also decides how to best apply there trade to a particular phase. Creating value for the community involves the conscious and intentional giving back to the community (Northouse, 2016). An organizational philosophy exists, that which we produce for the community creates the spaces were the majority of people’s lives happen. My organization also sponsors local youth events and activities and is involved in supporting and organizing a yearly breast cancer walk.
The Liden et al. (2014) model of servant leadership also determined the conditions in which the application of servant leadership is possible. The three antecedent conditions for the successful application of servant leadership are context and culture, leader attributes, and follower receptivity (Liden et al., 2014). Context and culture consists of organizational environment components that contribute to the successful occurrence of servant leadership (Northouse, 2016). Servant leadership is possible and successful in my organization because our organizational context is providing a necessity to the community, and our organizational culture shares power. Leader attributes represent the ideas and traits that influence and provide a leader with the disposition to demonstrate servant leadership behaviors (Northouse, 2016). For instance, I am capable of successfully applying servant leadership because I am empathetic, moral, and not self-servant, I appreciate helping others develop or increase their well-being, as it provides me satisfaction. Follower receptivity involves the willingness of followers to be receptive to servant leadership (Northouse, 2016). For the most part the application of servant leadership in my organization is very successful for both followers and community. However, not all teams or followers in my organization benefit from the organizations application of servant leadership. One particular team, the roofers, does not wish to develop supportive relationships, and think they are perfectly capable of handling their own professional and personal development. Therefore the application of servant leadership is not successful with these followers.
The outcomes of servant leadership provide for follower performance and growth, organizational performance, and societal impact (Liden et al., 2014). As research has determined and my current organizational experience demonstrates, not all persons or teams are interested in the aspects of servant leadership and the benefits it provides to followers, and prefer to go it alone. However, given the community focus, which is the cornerstone of servant leadership, I think servant leadership bares consideration of organizational application. After all, in my opinion, it is extremely important for all leaders to consider the implications of their behaviors outside organizational settings. Perhaps less unethical leadership practices would occur if leaders first consider how their actions will affect communities and society.
Greenleaf, R. K. (1970). The Servant as Leader, The Robert K. Greenleaf Center, Indianapolis, IN.
Liden, R. C., Panaccio, A., Meuser, J. D., Hu, J., & Wayne, S. J. (2014). 17 Servant Leadership: Antecedents, Processes, and Outcomes. The Oxford handbook of leadership and organizations, 357-379. Online. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Spears, L. C. (2002). Tracing the past, present, and future of servant-leadership. Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the twenty-first century, 1-16. Online. Retrieved from http://civicleadership.lipscomb.edu/uploads/41763.pdf