The traditional idea of leadership seems to have always revolved around one word: Power. Leaders were expected to control and intimidate their followers while also making sure they were being productive and efficient. This involved being able to provide reinforcement of specific policies and procedures. A good example of this concept would be a strict educator. Any stern teacher I know had always been praised for “running a tight ship” as they were the epitome of compliance, discipline, and control. Personally, I have a different idea about what it means to be a leader and I believe leadership can come from anyone. True leaders are influential and want to empower others to reach their goals. This involves leaders helping their followers become the best version of themselves, which in turn, helps leaders create more leaders. To me, this is considered servant leadership as servant leadership puts the followers first, which means focusing on service and influence at the same time. A true leader is attentive to the follower’s needs and goals as they challenge and inspire (Northouse, 2016).
When most people hear the terms “servant leadership,” they automatically think this has to do with followers serving the leader. This is actually the complete opposite. Robert Greenleaf fabricated the term servant-leader in 1970. My favorite quote from Greenleaf is written below:
“A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”
From a personal perspective, there is one situation that really sticks out to me when talking about servant leadership. This involved me accidentally losing something of high importance and a stranger returning it to me. Long story short, the stranger was able to track me down via social media and return something of mine rather than using it for his own gain or monetary value. When I had met this stranger, he stated that if he had done anything but return it, karma would make itself known and that it’s better to do good in the world where so much “bad” happens. His actions and words really stuck with me due to his selflessness and I feel as if that is something a true leader would do. Not only that, but he inspired me to do more as a person and become more as well. He wanted to help me, a stranger he didn’t even know.
Caring for people, more or less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Caring was considered only person to person, now most of it is mediated through organizations – often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major organizations by new regenerative forces operating within them (Greenleaf, 2016).
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Greenleaf, R.(2016). What Is Servant Leadership? Retrieved from https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/