Robert K. Greenleaf (The Father of Modern Servant Leadership)
Greenleaf is widely recognized as the one who coined the term, servant leadership. Greenleaf spent 40 years at AT&T as a manager of research, development and education. Upon retirement, Greenleaf spent the next 25 years in a pursuit of creating a better, more caring society. Greenleaf remarked that he had great concern for leadership in America, “the outlook for better leadership in our leadership-poor society is not encouraging.” Greenleaf founded the Center for Applied Ethics in 1964 which was renamed the Robert K. Greenleaf Center in 1985 (www.greenleaf.org)
Greenleaf stated in his 1970 ground-breaking essay for servant leadership entitled, The Servant as Leader, “The servant-leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” Blanchard (1999) agreed with Greenleaf that servant leaders are first servants before they become leaders when he stated, “Strong natural servants…will assume leadership only if they see it as a way in which they can serve.”
Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York: Paulist Press.
Blanchard, K. (1999). The heart of a leader. Colorado Springs, CO: Honor Books.
Ten Characteristics of Servant Leadership Spears (1996)
Listening – Servant leaders’ communication skills are enhanced through a deep commitment to listening intently to the followers. Servant leaders seek to identify and clarify the will of the group. Receptive listening and reflection are essential to the growth of a servant leader.
Empathy – Servant leaders strive to understand and empathize with others. They accept and recognize followers for their unique spirits; and they assume others have good intentions, even if they disagree with behavior or performance.
Healing – Servant leaders are adept at healing others as well as themselves. They help make others whole by facilitating the healing of broken spirits. Servant leaders share with followers the search for wholeness.
Awareness – Servant leaders exhibit a general awareness of what is happening in the organization. They possess a keen sense of self-awareness and an understanding of issues involving ethics and values. Servant leaders are often described as disturbers and awakeners.
Persuasion – Servant leaders employ persuasion rather than position authority when making decisions within the organization. They prefer to convince rather than coerce followers. Servant leaders are very effective with building consensus within the group.
Conceptualization – Servant leaders do not deal only with short-term goals and thinking. They are able to stretch their thinking to encompass broader-based conceptual thinking. Servant leaders can nurture the abilities of others to “dream great dreams” and to think beyond day-to-day realities.
Foresight – Servant leaders are capable of understanding lessons from the past, seeing the realities of the present, and predicting likely consequences of decisions. They are adept at intuitive thinking.
Stewardship – Servant leaders are dedicated to holding their institutions in trust for the greater good of society. They are committed to serving the needs of others.
Commitment to the Growth of People – Servant leaders believe in the intrinsic value of people beyond their tangible contributions as workers. They feel responsible for nurturing the personal, professional and spiritual growth of employees.
Building Community – Servant leaders are dedicated to rebuilding the sense of community that has been lost with the shift to large institutions.
Seven Virtuous Constructs of Servant Leadership Patterson (2003) Patterson, K. A. (2003). Servant leadership: A theoretical model. Servant Leadership Roundtable. Regent University School of Leadership Studies, Virginia Beach, VA.
Agapao Love – Love is the cornerstone of the servant leader-follower relationship. Servant leaders see followers as whole persons with different gifts and talents. They are able to focus on followers first, then on their talents and how those talents benefit the organization.
Humility – Servant leaders are able to keep their accomplishments and talents in perspective. They focus on others rather than themselves. Servant leaders have an authentic desire to help others, and they search for ways to serve others through staying in touch with their followers.
Altruism – Servant leaders help others just for the sake of helping. They have an unselfish concern for others which often involves personal sacrifice. Servant leaders’ behaviors are directed toward the benefit of others even when those behaviors are against their own personal interests.
Vision – Servant leaders have a vision for their individual followers. They help others to see the big picture by enabling them to develop a clear sense of purpose and direction. Servant leaders develop within others the mission to serve and encourage followers to become more than they thought possible.
Trust – Servant leaders develop trust through demonstrating integrity and concern for others. They create open environments where everyone has a voice and they work collaboratively.
Empowerment – Servant leaders empower others with the best interest of those being served in mind. They teach and develop people as leaders through shared decision-making and shared responsibility. Servant leaders make it a priority to grow new servant leaders.
Service – Servant leaders choose the interests of others over self-interests. They see leadership as a calling - a life mission. Servant leaders accept the responsibility for serving others; and they are committed to an authentic, personal involvement with followers through the giving or their time, energy, care, and compassion.
“Power is created when individuals perceive that their leaders are honorable, so they trust them, are inspired by them, believe deeply in the goals communicated by them, and desire to be led.” Stephen Covey, Principle-Centered Leadership
Connecting with, believing in, and motivating people