The Concept of Servant Leadership has been prevailing since the 70’s coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In it, 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 … (vs. one who is leader first…) … The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons … (and become) more likely themselves to become servants?”
Servant Leadership in Religion
However, Servant Leadership philosophy has been popular since the ancient times both religiously and philosophically. Here are some of the reference from wikipedia:
Chanakya wrote, in the 4th century BCE, in his book Arthashastra:
“the king [leader] shall consider as good, not what pleases himself but what pleases his subjects [followers]” “the king [leader] is a paid servant and enjoys the resources of the state together with the people.”
Servant leadership can be found in many religious texts, though the philosophy itself transcends any particular religious tradition. In the Christian tradition, this passage from the Gospel of Mark is often quoted in discussions of servant leadership:
“42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be servant of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served , but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
Islam (“the leader of a people is their servant”) and other world religions have long embraced the philosophy of servant leadership.
The Bhagavad Gita is the “perfect textbook” for those who are striving to be “servant leaders” and its message is relevant for all days and ages, American Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said.
Some of these lessons embedded within the Gita:
- Leaders should embrace rather than avoid formidable challenges because they bring out the leaders’ greatest strengths
- Leaders should be resilient in their actions and should not be weakened by pain and pleasure.
- Selfish desires and animosity obscure the purpose of leadership.
- Leaders achieve lasting power and glory by exercising compassion and selfless service.
- Effective leaders do not lead by fear or anger.
- Character is core to effective leadership.
- Leaders need to be aware of the self and the surroundings.
Servant Leadership in Business
Boiling servant leadership down to its basic terms and how it can be used to improve business performance, in essence it can represent a decentralized structure that focuses on employee empowerment and encourages innovation. This mean having upper management share key decision making powers with employees that work directly with customers that are arguably better aware of what is needed to serve clients and remain competitive because of their knowledge of what is occurring on the “front lines” of the business.
There are many organizations that value servant leadership. Specifically, I found 61 of the 100 companies on Fortune’s list had employees recognized online (by themselves, such as in profiles, or by others) as practicing servant leadership.
Companies Seeking Servant Leaders
To conclude, , servant leadership is about serving others. In economic parlance, it’s about leveraging assets to yield worthwhile change. Whether it’s a small private business or a large public entity, servant leadership is about transforming an organization into a successful enterprise by inspiring people to excel.
Nelson Mandela: “I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people.”