The theory of the term and details of this new (yet, ancient) leadership philosophy, servant-leadership, was developed by Robert Greenleaf, who worked for forty years as a management and training research specialist for AT&T. While at AT&T Greenleaf experienced the leadership and management realities of real world corporate America. He retired from AT&T in 1964, as Vice-President of Research. While at AT&T, he discovered that he had developed strong opinions about the management of organizations and of workers. He reflected on his experience and decided to use it to help other leaders deal more effectively with the issues they faced.
Servant-Leadership embraces the idea that leaders, organizations, and institutions should strive to improve their caring and quality of their people by inculcating the servant-leadership philosophy and model as part of a paradigm shift to putting the needs of those being led needs ahead of the leader or the organization, a part of this fresh approach to leadership, structure, and decision-making. This new concept called Servant-Leadership — emphasizes increased service to others; a holistic approach to work; promoting a sense of community; and, sharing of power in decision-making.
Servant Leadership specifically encourages those in leadership positions to re-think their approach and to now take on more personal responsibility and accountability, with the ultimate goal being to build a more caring society. Many have argued that it wasn’t necessarily that the old “system” that was the source of society’s problems, but rather a failure of the corporation or organizations leadership, especially the senior leadership. Servant-Leader believers have called for a new style of leadership, with leaders who are more caring and serve those they lead. The implementation of Servant-Leadership may be a major determining factor on which companies, corporation, or institutions will be viable and survive the current trying times. The primary qualities of a Servant leader (from Greenleaf, Spears and others) identified specific servant-leader characteristics, which include: foresight, awareness, listening, withdrawal, acceptance, empathy, and persuasion.
Servant-leadership followers strongly disagree with the command and control leadership, or the old fashion authoritarian and hierarchical leadership. In Servant leadership, enlightened leader’s obligation is to the organization as the ultimate caretaker, and that the leaders should practice more servant-leader principles to ensure that they were, in fact, building a better organization.
Servant-leadership focuses on servant-leaders making their employees, their firm’s customers, and their communities their number one priority, not the ego of the leaders, or their possible bonuses.
One of the unique findings from my research was the importance to sixteen prominent and successful leaders I personally interviewed for my Leadership Doctoral dissertation was the importance of being a “Servant Leader” and more specifically a “Humble Servant Leader.” “Humble” in this context was not meant that you need to weak and meek, but rather enlightened, in tune, teachable and serve those you lead.
The importance of having servant leadership in the sixteen successful and prominent leaders i interviewed was repeatedly expressed by the participants, with their citing specific examples of the importance of being a servant leader. The prominent leaders expressed repeatedly that working with and learning from servant leaders had changed their lives.
The groundbreaking findings from my in depth leadership research, for my leadership research, with the sixteen major leaders (that had all overcome adversity) was the importance, in their view, of specifically being a “humble servant leader” and that it has positive changed their lives.
Having enlightened mentors, who were servant-leaders, had shortened the learning cycle, helped them to get out of problems and avoid other problems, and in their opinion made them stronger, as well as built them into strong powerful, yet “Humble Servant-Leaders.”
I will share a few short portions of direct quotes from my Leadership and Overcoming Adversity research from some of the successful leaders with their thoughts on the topic of servant-leadership and being a humble servant-leader, from my personal interviews with them.
I interview Dr. Anthony Bonanzino as one the sixteen prominent leaders that overcame adversity. Bonanzino, a successful entrepreneur and corporate CEO, specifically stated that his personal view or “perspective of leadership, is being in a servant-leader.”
The political arena is an unexpected place to hear, not just once but twice, the benefit and value of servant-leadership, much less the advocating of being a humble servant leader. During my personal almost four interview in Washington, D.C. with United States Senator Orrin Hatch, in his offices in the Hart Senate Office Building and in the meeting rooms of the United State Senate, Senator Hatch said that he also embraced and used in his life the basic concepts of servant-leadership, and being a humble servant leader was important, he specifically noted that a leader “must be the servant of all.” The second voice advocating servant leadership, was United States Senator Daniel Inouye during my interview with in March 2005, in his US Senate offices in Washington, DC, specifically stressed that he believed in the quality that “leaders need to be kind and caring.”
During our interview in early March 2005, at the home and horse ranch, near the US Armt Base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, of Major General Sid Shachnow (U.S. Army, Ret) during his interview with me observed that “being a good leader requires one to be a good follower.” I personally interviewed Entrepreneur, Chairman & CEO of Medistar, Monzer Hourani, for two days at his office and home in December of 2004. Monzer made the point that a: “leader needs to be humble.”
This article has outline what Servant leadership is and the importance of having servant leadership in the sixteen successful and prominent leaders. These prominent leaders expressed repeatedly that working with and learning from servant leaders had changed their lives. These sixteen major leaders, that had all overcome adversities in their lives, was the importance, in their view, of specifically being a “humble servant leader” and that it has positive changed their lives.
Servant-leaders is absolutely critically to survival of companies, institutions, and organizations, especially in these turbulent times. Much of the pain and suffering we are seeing in bank and corporation failures, from what I have labeled the “Seeds of Corporate Greed” would simple not exist, if the basic concept of being a true Servant-Leader existed in corporations and institutions.
It is my conclusion that Enlightened Servant-Leaders will have fewer problems to face, that those focused on their egos or greed. In the opinion of the successful leaders I interviewed, using Servant Leadership actually made them better leaders, as well as built them into strong powerful, yet “Humble Servant-Leaders.”
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