Servant leadership is defined as both service and influence and is comprised of the point of view of a leader encompassed in the behavior’s they exhibit (Northouse, 2013). Servant leadership emphasizes attentiveness to the concerns of their followers (Highouse,2013). This is different from traditional leadership in which the leader’s focus is on the thriving of their company or organization. In the words of Greenleaf “Good leaders must first become good servants” (Greenleaf,1970). This is you must serve before you can lead.
Servant Leadership was not always given the credit it deserves, but why? These types of leaders demonstrate strong moral behaviors and place the good of followers ahead of themselves When you look at the qualities that a servant leader possesses such as listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment for growth and building a community. you think it would be a great asset to a company to have a leader that has the same views that of a servant leader. People treat this style of leadership like a trait but is really a behavior. A man named Robert Greenleaf was the first person to think of leadership in this fashion. Greenleaf founded the Center for Applied Ethics in 1964. He worked for 40 years at AT&T and only after he retired, he began to look how institutions could function and serve society better. (Highouse,2013) Greenleaf credits the conceptualizing of his theory to a 1956 novel by Herman Hess called, The Journey to the East. The novel tells a story about a group of travelers that are accompanied by a servant. The book goes on to describe that servant who cared for them well as serve them drinks and sang songs. It is only after the servants become lost the travelers become very distressed and unable to go any further. Greenleaf had a thought that it was the servants who were the leaders of the group, they had the skills that made the journey possible. Greenleaf began to comprise a list of skills that this type of leader may have, such as communication skills, that means listening between the parties involved. Servant leaders listen before they speak. I remember my grandmother also taught me that skill, you should gather all the information before you interject your opinion. Empathy was also part of Greenleaf’s list as well; this is a very important skill because it entails being able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and to be able to communicate to them in that manner. It is like pretending that the person speaking to you is you, and you can then understand how they describe their feelings and communicate to you. Servant leaders care about the wellbeing of their followers. They can understand that healing is a two-way street. In order be to successful the entire team must function as one. If you ever herd the expression the half is not a good the whole. Awareness, of more than just your surrounding but also the physical, social and political environments. What is the impact that your actions make on others? Servant leaders are able to understand this concept, they have the awareness that they can make the team excel by stepping aside and viewing the followers in a different context and be able to apply what they learned to best fit the situation. As opposed to being forced to change, these leaders use persuasion by the art of non-judgmental discussions. One must listen first and then create a point that is then excepted by the followers in the organization. For example if the boat in the Novel Journey to the East wanted to go on the right side of the path one would listen and then describe your position as yes that is a good idea but we can avoid the rough waters if we go a little to the left. Being able to distinguish the big picture, if we go to the left it will make our journey smoother and you can enjoy your drinks without spilling them. Last time I took this journey a big rock chipped my propeller and I don’t want that to happen again. That is the ability to have foresight. Greenleaf also showed how it was imperative to understand the intrinsic value that each person had independently, and to help them utilize that skill to grow as a person .For example they could be shown how valuable they are to the organization and what they have done to compliment it and make it successful. For example, one of the travelers might have the ability to see further on the river and be able to spot rocks that are jetting up and that person realizes he has an important part in arriving to their destination. By being able to utilize everybody’s assets and enabling them to express their individuality you will get different views on the subject. Will increased views you can have more options to better achieve your destination. Your followers will build a team that worked together to form a common goal. Together you become successful.
Greenleaf must have gained this knowledge through his years at AT&T and with reading the book put it all together. He saw how working in a “you do as the boss wants” company worked, and he also saw” a let’s do this as a team I will show you how” method worked. He was able to see that social injustices exist, and you must remove them as the have-nots were just as important as the leader.
This type of leadership has its downfalls, to some Servant Leadership is treated like a trait rather than a skill you can learn. Three conditions will have an impact on this type of leadership: context and culture, leaders’ attributes, and follower receptivity (Northouse,2103). This type of leadership may not be successful if the followers are not willing to be guided, supported and empowered (Northouse,2013).
Servant leadership is multidimensional and a complex process that leads to success if you are in the right company. Servant Leaders make a conscious choice to serve first and to place the good of the followers over the leaders’ own self-interests (Northouse,2013). The outcomes of this type of leadership are follower performance and growth, organizational performance, and societal impact (Northouse, 2013). Leaders such as Greenleaf, have the foresight and the ability to conceptualize what an organization can conquer if they looked at things differently. He had the ability to show us a different theory of leadership.
Greenleaf, R.K. (1970). The servant as leader. Westfield, IN: The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University (2020). Lesson 10: Transformational Leadership. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2040131/modules/items/28001810