Monday, March 28, 2011

What IS Servant Leadership?

Hello everyone!

I thought we might take some time today to define servant leadership.

Servant Leadership is a phrase coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 essay, "The Servant as Leader." Greenleaf enjoyed a forty-year career in the field of management research, development and education at AT&T. After he left AT&T, he enjoyed a second career as a consultant to many other institutions, including Ohio University and the Ford Foundation. Greenleaf formed the Center for Applied Ethics in 1964, which was renamed the Robert K. Greenleaf Center in 1985 and is headquartered in Indianapolis, IN.

The idea of this form of leadership is that one must first be experienced as a servant to others in order to truly be a great leader. "True leadership emerges from those whos primary motiviation is a deep desire to help others." (Spears, Larry C. "Practicing Servant-Leadership" Leader to Leader. 34 (Fall 2004)7-11.)

There are two basic types of leaders in the world -- the ones who work for other people and the ones who work for themselves. A lot of times, you see people in leadership positions that have a thirst for power. These are the people who climb on whoever is in the way to get to the top. The ones who abuse their power and take advantage of their position. The people who "pull rank" when they don't get their way.

Servant leadership is the exact opposite. Being a leader is a sacrifice. You give more than you take. You listen more than you talk. And you work hard... as hard or harder than those working below you.

Being a leader is not about resting on your laurels at the top of the pile. Rather, it is about helping others climb the ladder with you, striving to build a strong team and encouraging growth within that team to help build a new generation of leaders.

Genuinely caring for the people on your team, being aware of their personal and professional goals and fostering their growth and development in the company are all marks of a servant leader. When you truly care about the people who work for you, they can see that -- and they are happier and more productive, and they are more loyal to you and your organization.

Think of your past experiences in the workforce and the leaders that you worked with. What qualities did you admire in those leaders? What qualities did you not care for? Chances are, the leaders you enjoyed working for were practicing some servant leadership skills.

Over the next ten weeks, we are going to explore the ten qualities of a servant leader. Each week, I will post an overview of the quality we are discussing, as well as some examples of how you can put it into practice.

As time permits, I would also like to come back a couple more times each week and give extra examples, optional further reading and answer any questions posted in comments. I do hope that those of you who read my blog will comment and ask questions! I want this to be a learning experience for all of us!

Thanks for taking the time to read today. I'll be back again this week, with some additional preliminary information and we'll get started in earnest next week!