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Servant Leadership

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Servant Leadership
Lynda Kosh
Indiana Wesleyan University
BSM 580
MGT 441 – Philosophy of Corporate Culture
Facilitator: Nick Ipock
June 21, 2012

Leadership today takes many forms and has numerous definitions and styles. Servant Leadership, though not a new concept, is at the forefront of discussion from leaders and observers around the globe. The final paper for Philosophy of Corporate Culture focused on the steps necessary for successful change implementation. This paper will expand upon the idea of Servant Leadership and whether it will help or hurt change implementation within a given organization. Prior to any discussion about the qualities, actions, and implications of being a servant leader, we must first take a look at its modern day origin and definition. The phrase “Servant Leadership” was originally coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, he said: “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. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first; perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature” (Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, 2012). Though the term servant leadership is a modern phrasing, the concept is derived from a biblical perspective that Jesus exemplified in his life and ministry. Jesus, in Matthew 20:26-28 says it very succinctly, "You have observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It is not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage." Jesus, our clear model, displayed the true servant leadership principles of collaboration, empowerment, and service to others. He was not here to build His kingdom but that of His heavenly Father. When Jesus spoke of leadership He always talked about serving. Even in His own role of leadership, he served those He came to lead. This kingdom was not built so that He could be the focal point and receive our worship. He spoke of laying down His life and not exalting it. In Matthew 23:11-12 Jesus tells us that the greatest among us will be the servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (NIV). This standard of leadership is contrary to the modern humanistic version. Servant Leadership is more than just sharing a compelling vision. The servant leader must live the vision. This type of leadership is more about practice and less about position. The servant leader sees the potential in others then mobilizes and inspires them to share in the vision. Developing the team is important but a servant leader is just as interested in people development as he or she is about accomplishing the vision or people’s performance. A great leader will replicate themselves in others and a servant leader will produce other servant leaders. They always prepare others to take the reins. Their mindset propels them to work themselves out of the job! Again, Jesus showed us this example with the disciples. He developed them, and then made a place for them in history. Many authorities on the subject of servant leadership suggest that this type of leader is actually an art, or more specifically, a calling, and not easily broken down into a formula or a science. However, Kouzes and Pozner are able to qualify some of the given practices of this type of leadership down to five basic practices (Kouzes & Posner, Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge, 2004): 1) A leader must model the way by aligning actions with values. 2) Inspire a shared vision by imagining exciting possibilities and enlisting others. 3) Challenge the process by taking risks and seeking innovative ways to change, grow, and improve. 4) Enable others to act by fostering collaboration, building trust, and strengthening others by sharing power. 5) Encourage the heart, showing appreciation and celebrating values and victories. A friend of mine, Dr. Larry Lindsay and his colleague Mark A. Smith, wrote in their book Leading Change in Your World, a leader must display authenticity, value people, develop people, build community, provide leadership, and share leadership (Lindsay & Smith, 2010). In my opinion, successful change implementation requires servant leadership and the spirit of the leadership style that transmits a sense of trust and respect while influencing people to produce the intended change. Dr. Lindsay also states that it produces a sense of appreciation, optimism, motivation, involvement, ownership, and freedom to improve and advance (Lindsay & Smith, 2010). The highest form of motivation for the servant leader is serving others. This leader places the good of those led over any personal self-interest. He clearly focuses on people. The servant leader’s style is one of authority but not authoritarian. He does not lead by command or control. He must live by the same values that he is trying to instill in others. James C. Hunter defines leadership this way: the skills of influencing people to enthusiastically work toward goals identified as being for the common good, with character that inspires confidence (Hunter, 2004). The teams and groups are about faith, believing in an idea, something of value for the community. These followers are grounded in respect and admiration for the leader and the other team members as well. They have something and someone to believe in (Godin, 2008). This is where the true test of a servant leader can help bring about change or do the most harm to the change process. The first hurdle is that of true humility and the sharing of power. If a servant leader enlists others, shares a clear vision that motivates, and does not use coercive power, his efforts empower those who are led and should lead them and the organization to productive change. On the other hand, if there are those in the organization who have not accepted the leadership and grasped the shared aspirations of leader and the group, or maybe deceived previously by some other leader and are leery of involvement or moving forward, they may unknowingly or knowingly sabotage the process and progress of the group. The leader must know his team well and be clear about the change process and all of its implications. His role is to love, care, serve, train, and develop those whom he serves and leads. This is where the submission of the servant leader to the leading of the Holy Spirit plays a significant role. In John 14, Jesus said he would send us the comforter, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth will teach us and lead us. Leaders must rely upon the wisdom that the Holy Spirit brings to us. If the servant leader becomes prideful or power hungry then maybe they were not a servant leader to begin with but a sheep in wolves clothing. However, a true servant leader will produce results that are far reaching and span more than just a moment in time. The result should always be - bringing the desired future into the present. As a leader, my desire is to be a catalyst for change in my family, church, and community. Experience is a great teacher. In my own walk with the Lord, I have had dreams and visions of what could be. The passion to help and serve young women who did not have a diploma and no job skills became so strong that I had to do something. Knowing that I could not accomplish this on my own, I enlisted the help of others having similar ideas, possessing the strengths that I was lacking. It was my privilege to become the Executive Director for the faith-based, social service agency called ROAR Community Development Center. ROAR became so successful that it became a showcase for other faith-based organizations to emulate. The passion was so strong that we successfully communicated to volunteers and funders alike and partnered together for a change in the lives of these young women and their children. Sometimes the vision will take you down a path you never dreamed and produce changes that defy logic. A servant leader knows they are not capable of accomplishing anything alone. They understand that they are just the vessel chosen for just such an occasion. They use their voice and their influence to make a difference for others. The servant leader becomes the voice for something greater than self. They are not power hungry or money hungry and will accomplish a greater good with integrity, honesty, and humility. The servant leadership style will allow you to speak before people who need to hear what you have to say. It will take you to places you never dreamed of going. It will make life changers rather than life takers out of those who follow. Therefore, the true servant leader will produce positive results for any given organization, but especially those organizations that lend themselves to serving others.

References
(2012, June 21). Retrieved from Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership: http://www.greenleaf.org/whatissl/
Godin, S. (2008). Tribes: we need you to lead us. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Hunter, J. C. (2004). The world's most powerful leadership principle: how to become a servant leader. New York, NY: Crown Business.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2004). Christian reflections on the leadership challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Lindsay, L. M., & Smith, M. A. (2010). Leading change in your world. Marion, IN: Triangle Publishing.

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