Ronald J. Burke and Carl L. Cooper in their book, Inspiring Leaders ask the question, what do leaders do? Their response is, “Leaders have two main activities: Create an agenda for change (vision and strategy) and build a strong implementation network (a strong motivated core group).” A leader’s ability to create change is influenced by his or her leadership style, which can facilitate the motivation of others to embrace the vision and strategy for change. This writing will examine the leadership style of the servant leader.
Larraine Segil, Marshall Goldsmith and James A. Belasco in their book, Partnering: The New Face of Leadership, posit, “The concept of ‘servant leadership’ has become very popular in the last few years. As Confucius wrote, ‘To become the master, you must become the servant of all.’” Servant leadership conveys the understanding that one must be willing to serve others in order to truly institute one’s power. This writing will define what it means to be a servant leader from a biblical perspective. Furthermore, it is this writer’s intent to explain the characteristics and the goals of the servant leader to understand how this impacts organizations today and how it will influence organizations for tomorrow.
Charles C. Manz, writer of the book, Leadership Wisdom of Jesus: Practical Lessons for Today, defines what servant means. “Being a servant is fairly straightforward: look for others’ needs and try to help meet them. The Golden Rule – do to others as you would have them do to you.” The concept of a servant leader is not a new one; it first appeared in the Bible, but how did the concept appear in the business world?
Authors, Larry C. Spears and Michele Lawrence of the book, Focus On Leadership: Servant-leadership for the Twenty-first Century, elucidate how the term began. Robert K. Greenleaf coined this term in an essay he wrote in 1970 called “The Servant as Leader”. “Since then, the servant-leader concept has had a deep and lasting influence on many modern leadership theories and practices.” Spears and Lawrence further explain Greenleaf’s concept when they write, “Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
Authors David Caruso and Peter Salovey of the book, The Emotionally Intelligent Manger: How to Develop and use the Four Key Emotional Skills of Leadership, explain the emotional make up of a servant leader. “We have found that those higher in emotional intelligence tend to be more interested in developing and helping people.” The finding that emotional intelligence contributes to one becoming a servant leader substantiates the necessity for one to understand the needs of others and utilize that understanding to lead.
Larry Spear in an article titled, “Practicing Servant-Leadership” further explicates Greenleaf’s servant leadership concept. “True leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others.” Spear’s further explains that Greenleaf felt a need for a better approach to leadership, “one that would put serving others – including employees, customers, and community – as the number one priority.”
So what is servant leadership? Servant leadership emphasizes increased service to others, which is a holistic approach to work, promoting a sense of community and the sharing of power in decision-making. A servant leader is emotionally motivated to care for others. This is in line with what God requires from his children that they care for one another. God calls his children to be “emotionally intelligent” and make others a priority.
Where can an individual obtain information pertaining to what makes one a servant leader? There are unquestionably many writers that are willing to lend their understanding to this subject, however this writing turns first to another source, the Bible (come back next week for the next installment).
Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper, Inspiring Leaders (New York: Taylor & Francis Routledge, 2006), 8.
 Larraine Segil, Marshall Goldsmith and James A. Belasco, Partnering: The New Face of Leadership (New York: AMACOM Books, 2003), 253.
 Charles C. Manz, Leadership Wisdom of Jesus: Practical Lessons for Today (San Francisco: Berkeley Berrett Koehler, 2005), 117.
 Larry C. Spears and Michele Lawrence, Focus On Leadership: Servant-leadership for the Twenty-first Century (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002), 18.
 David Caruso and Peter Salovey, The Emotionally Intelligent Manager: How to Develop and Use the Four Key Emotional Skills in Leadership (San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004), 203.
 Larry C. Spears, “Practicing Servant-Leadership.” Leader to Leader 2004, no. 34:7-11. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed December 2, 2009), 8.