The principles of Servant Leadership were laid out by founder Robert Greenleaf in his important 1970 book, The Servant as Leader. Greenleaf, to his great credit, wanted to stress the point that leaders should first serve, and later lead through service. The leaders who have power but have not led, and use the power to push his or her own viewpoints and agenda, are not the kind of leaders Greenleaf was referring to. In fact in the Center for Servant Leadership website, the theory and philosophy of Servant Leadership is clearly spelled out: "A servant-leader focuses primarily in the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong…the servant leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible" (www.greenleaf.org).
In this paper the goal will be to define and explain servant leadership in a context involving both religion and philosophy.
Identify / Explain two philosophical worldviews that support servant leadership
In the peer-reviewed publication Journal of Leadership Studies, author Cara Meixner explains that she had taught a course called "Foundations of Leadership" four previous times in the past and was scheduled to teach it again at the university level. But Meixner admitted that while she had approached the course "…lovingly and mindfully" in the past, she couldn't bring that same attitude and approach back into play (Meixner, 81). Was she suffering burnout? Was she ill? No, she was healthy and happy; but before she could really confront her seeming bored approach to the same course using the same books, an administrator phoned and asked her to teach leadership to freshman, rather than the juniors and seniors she had been teaching.
This opened up a fresh approach for her, a new start, so to speak, and while she had used Robert Greenleaf's servant leadership as an important part of the previous courses she had taught, this time she decided to integrate a book by Nobel Prize-winning author Hermann Hesse -- The Journey to the East. In Hesse's book he describes a man who goes on a pilgrimage to the "East" -- where he believes he will discover "the ultimate truth" (Meixner, 82). In the novella, Hesse creates a "secret sect" that involves Plato, Pythagoras, Don Quixote, Albertus Magnus and Paul Klee, along with "…an array of other timeless characters," some real, some fictionalized (Meixner, 82).
In ancient philosophy, Meixner continues, "quintessence" is viewed as the "fifth essence"; superseding earth, air, water and air, the fifth essence is "ethereal" -- and the way Hesse has written the book, it opens the door to a new approach to leadership, Meixner continues (83). The book features a "League" in which members experience "spiritual awakening" and a chance to be reborn into a consciousness that touches the soul; the leader of the League is Leo (who is a servant to others needs, and a musician), but when he leaves, the adventure ends and members of the League are lost.
Later, Leo is found, and the point of the story is that members of the League were counting on one leader to show the way, but in fact each member could also have been Leo, and could (and should) serve others in the way Leo served them. "Standing on one's own feet can be lonely," Meixner continues (83), but learning should be directed "back at one's self" and when this happens, "We discover the art of learning about our own learning… [and] in the process of service-learning" the teacher then shows the students to reflect seriously upon what they have observed and experienced (84). The worldview presented here relates to the need for each person attempting to climb the ladder of leadership first needs to serve one's self; searching for truth and inspiration outside one's self is rarely successful without first searching inside one's self.
Meanwhile, Greenleaf's principles of servant leadership include: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building the community (www.butler.edu). In order to become a good listener and have empathy towards others, a person has to have a strong sense of self. The members of the League didn't have those qualities at first which is why they were so lost and confused without Leo. In the journal Business Ethics: A European Review (Rozuel, et al., 2010) the authors explain that while morality begins with the self, according to spiritual traditions, there is a "higher self" -- and whether people realize it or not, Rozuel explains, "their spirituality lies in the self" (424).
Everyone has the ability to "develop spiritually" -- and by "spiritual" the authors are not relating to religion, but rather they allude to "the inner consciousness…the source of inspiration, creativity, and wisdom" (426) -- but due to the materialism and competition all around today's business person, humans' aptitude for "self-reflection" is restrained (427). Hence, the authors assert there is a need to open the door for change by seriously engaging in "self-realization"; and when a leader is in a position to make those changes he or she "…implicitly brings about a change in others as well…through the interrelatedness of human beings rooted in our spiritual essence" (428). In other words, the philosophy being presented by Rozuel is that by being connected to the self, a person becomes a servant leader. Without a strong sense of self, a person cannot serve others well, Rozuel suggests.
Servant leaders "receive power without having to seek it," Rozuel asserts, because affirming the "higher self" reflects behaviors that inspires and "…empowers other stakeholders" (429). On page 434 the authors conclude their research into how business managers define "self"; managers of course are expected to act as leaders, but from a moral point-of-view, "...the more encompassing and sustainable style of servant leadership is coherent with a perception of the self that recognizes and embraces its spiritual dimension." This scholarly article responds well to number three in the instructions, which asks the writer to describe how a person's worldview and maturity influences that person's ability to apply servant leadership. It is about having an understanding of one's own self in a spiritual sense; there can be no worldview without a firm grasp of the fact that morality and ethics being with the self. In other words, how can one see beyond the day-to-day pressures and tension if one can't see within themselves?
Identify a religious world view that supports servant leadership
In the peer-reviewed Evangelical Review of Theology, author Derek Tidball explains that in the world of Roman Empire leadership, men were "masculine, powerful and concerned with status" (Tidball, 2012, 31). That description could certainly be used to describe how numerous individuals in 2013 perceive leadership; indeed, having power over others, earning a sense of social and business status is certainly the goal for many managers and others in today's society. But Tidball's point is well taken in that when Jesus Christ came into the picture "…he introduced a new way of leading which was to be incumbent on all his followers, that of leading by serving, even sacrificial service' (31).
Christ's disciples were in a quandary: how can any person "…simultaneously be a leader and a servant?" The disciples understood the popular image at that time in history, that leaders "command" and "servants obey" (Tidball, 31). The author carries those earlier contradictions into today's religious milieu; a pastor in the 21st millennium is trained to "…preach, teach, and lead in mission," but many pastors are also obligated to do mundane tasks around the church facility like putting chairs away, locking the building, and calling the plumber when the sink is stopped up. Hence the pastor is both a leader and a servant, and while that pastor may not enjoy the dual role, Tidball suggests that by looking closely at Biblical narratives that relate to leadership, there is a worldview to be embraced and a perspective to be achieved as well.
For example, when his disciples discussed how they would "partake of the benefits of leadership," as though it was a privilege to have authority over another person or group, "Jesus presents himself consistently as a model of service" (Tidball, 36). But Jesus specifically went to great lengths to point out that "…for even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45) (Tidball, 36).
And when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he told them that "…I have set you an example that you should do as I have done" (John 13:15) (Tidball, 36). The Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus went about "…taking the very nature of a servant" (Phil. 2:7), and Paul described himself and his colleagues as "only servants," and he indicated that the disciples viewed themselves as in a relatively "lowly status" which was in sharp contrast to how the Corinthians spoke of themselves (1 Cor. 3:5-4:13) (Tidball, 36).