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Servant Leadership
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"The leader is the servant of all, able to show disarming humility without the loss of authority."

SIR EDWARD 'WEARY' DUNLOP

 

Servant leadership is a relatively new concept, initiated by Greanleaf in 1977. Primarily a servant leader is there to meet the needs of the group, in essence acting as a servant to the group (Patterson, Russell & Stone, 2004). This primary objective is stemmed from a value for human equality and a desire to enhance the personal development and professional contributions of all group members (Russell, 2001). Servant leaders can be found within different environment, just like any other leader. Perhaps two of the most well known servant leaders is Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi.

 

Servant Leadership Focus

The principal difference between servant leadership and other forms of leadership such as transformational and charismatic is the focus of the leader. While other types of leaders may be focused on getting followers to engage in the organisational objectives, servant leaders are focused on the followers themselves. Servant leaders may not have a particular affinity for the organisation itself, but they value the people who make up the organisation (Patterson, Russell & Stone, 2004). Servant leadership is an unselfish form of leadership and is not built on leader’s ego or desire for fame and glory (Cole, 2005).

 

Attributes

Each individual leader may show different qualities or attributes that make them unique. Russell (2001, p. 78) has identified some common functional attributes of a servant leader, they are:

  • Vision
  • Credibility
  • Trust
  • Service
  • Modeling
  • Pioneering
  • Appreciation of others
  • Empowerment

 

Each functional attributes has an accompanying attribute, identified is this table:

 

Functional Attributes

Accompanying Attributes

Vision

Communication

Honesty, Integrity

Credibility

Trust

Competence

Service

Stewardship

Modeling

Visibility

Pioneering

Influence

Persuasion

Appreciation of others

Listening

Encouragement

Empowerment

Teaching

Delegation

(Russell, 2001, p79)

 

In more detail, trust is great importance in servant leadership because it can help to establish leader credibility, which allows people to follow with confidence and enthusiasm (Russell, 2001). Servant leaders are known to visibly appreciate, value, encourage and care for their group members. For example, they listen carefully and are non-judgmental, they protect those who can not protect themselves, they are committed to the truth and they are decisive and flexible (Cole, 2005).

 

Values of a Servant Leader

A value is a core belief, or an underlying thought that determines how someone acts or the choices they make. The personal values of a leader can have a significant effect on their choices and the relationship they have with their group members (Russell, 2001).Within a servant leader strong values is usually equal to ethical behavior. Values may affect the leaders:

  • Perception of situations
  • Solutions they generate
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Perception of success
  • Ethical or unethical behavior
  • Ability to accept of reject pressure and goals, and
  • Managerial performance

 

A person’s values can be affected and formed by influences such as family and friends, childhood experiences, major conflicts, life changes, personal relationships, religion, education, current events, technology and many more. As a leader it is important to clarify and understand your own belief system in order to provide good values for others (Russell, 2001).

 

Risks

In theory servant leadership sounds almost too good to be true, and in some circumstances it may well be. Servant leadership is built around the concept of reciprocation. This means when you do something for someone they feel psychologically obliged to return the favor. In servant leadership the leader is good to the followers, so in turn they are good to the leader. However if the motives or ethics of the leader (or followers) are poor this relationship can be abused and people can be taken advantage of (Patterson, Russell & Stone, 2004).

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