As a regular part of my daily routine, I like to browse through some news on our local newspaper’s website. One of the stories posted this week on Pennlive.com that caught my attention described an organizational leader who was recently sentenced to prison for stealing money from his organization (Beauge, 2017). James M. McCloy was the former president of the Susquehanna House, which was a non-profit organization that provided housing, care, and other services for troubled youth (Beauge, 2017). As I read the story about how McCloy started his business, I can’t help but think that he was, at one point in his life, a great role model for servant leadership. However, his failures to continue to follow the concepts of servant leadership ultimately lead to the destruction of his organization.
As noted by Northouse (2016), servant leaders demonstrate behaviors that show the importance of putting their follower’s needs first (p. 225). Servant leaders are empathetic and ethical in their actions (Northouse, 2016, p. 225). Their behaviors as a leader benefit not only the organization, but also the community and society as a whole (Northouse, 2016, p. 226). Servant leaders put aside their own agendas and personal interests to focus on serving the needs of others (Northouse, 2016, p. 226). Robert Greenleaf, a researcher and developer of the servant leadership theory, emphasizes that servant leaders have a social responsibility to remove barriers of social injustice and to support those who are labeled as less privileged (Northouse, 2016,p. 227).
James McCloy began his career as the founder of the Susquehanna House by demonstrating many of the behaviors described in the servant leadership theory (Beauge, 2017). He had previously worked at another school for troubled youth when he learned about the Milton Hershey School, which is a very successful institution that provides care, housing, and education for troubled youth (Beauge, 2017). McCloy viewed the Milton Hershey School as a great example of what individuals can do to support the needs of others. Wanting to emulate this great organization, McCloy spend all his money and maxed out his credit cards to create a similar organization (Beauge, 2017). He demonstrated self-sacrifice in an effort to meet the needs of other people, the community, and society as a whole. Up to this point in his life, it would appear that McCloy was more concerned with helping others and his ethical, moral, and selfless service reflected the basic concepts of servant leadership.
Northouse (2016) presented a model of servant leadership that was developed as a collaborative effort between researchers. In this model, three main components are provided: antecedent conditions, servant leader behaviors, and leadership outcomes (Northouse, 2016, p. 231). Under the antecedent condition component lays context and culture, which is just one of the existing conditions that can influence servant leadership (Northouse, 2016, p. 231). The context and culture within an organization will determine how servant leadership is achieved within the organization (Northouse, 2016, p. 231). In a nonprofit organization, where caring for others is typically the key focus, servant leadership can thrive (Northouse, 2016, p. 231). The Susquehanna House, being a nonprofit organization that cared for others, provided the right context and culture for servant leadership to be effective. But, as the servant leadership model highlights, there is more to servant leadership then just the antecedent conditions.
The servant leader behavior component within the model of servant leadership provides a list of behaviors that are essential to the process of servant leadership. This list of behaviors includes the following (Northouse, 2016):
- Emotional healing
- Putting followers first
- Helping followers grow and succeed
- Behaving ethically
- Creating value for the community
As president and founder of the Susquehanna House, McCloy employed many of these servant leadership behaviors. He provided, through his own funds, a place for troubled youth to grow and succeed. He identified a societal need for a place that troubled youth can be nurtured and cared for, with their needs coming first. He supported the community by providing a place that removed many of the barriers that may have influenced the troubles these youth faced. Nevertheless, his behaviors as a leader began to change as his organization started to face financial issues in 2009.
The final component in the servant leadership model is outcomes (Northouse, 2016, p. 236). Northouse (2016) noted from Greenleaf’s original work, “the central goal of servant leadership is to create healthy organizations that nurture individual growth, strengthen organizational performance, and, in the end, produce a positive impact on society” (p. 236). In the action of providing care and guidance for troubled youth, McCloy was helping them to grow and see their full potential as contributors to society. His behaviors and efforts as a servant leader may have influenced his followers to become servant leaders themselves. The Susquehanna House had a positive impact on society because they provided a place for local counties to send their troubled youth to get the attention they needed.
As a result of McCoy’s decision to misappropriate funds in an effort to better his own situation, the organization’s outcome on society declined. When the word got around that McCoy was arrested and charged with misappropriating funds and stealing money, the local counties stopped sending their troubled youth to the Susquehanna House (Beauge, 2017). Without the support of the local community, the organizational was forced to close (Beauge, 2017).
James McCloy started out his career as founder and president of the Susquehanna House demonstrating many of the critical concepts found in servant leadership. When his organization starting facing financial troubles, he decided to follow a path of unethically behavior. His own personal interests became his focal point. As a result of his change in servant leadership behavior, his organization was no longer able to provide the support they once gave to the local community and society as a whole. Providing servant leadership, especially in a non-profit type organization, can be the most effective and critical step in ensuring the operation of the organization is successful.
Beauge, B. (2017, March 30). Founder of organization for troubled youth sentenced to prison for stealing $195,228. The Patriot News. Retrieved from http://www.pennlive.com/news/2017/03/founder_of_organization_for_tr.html
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (7th ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.