Whether you are a journalist, a CEO, a student or factor worker, we all have a certain feeling of helping others. Think of the millions of dollars spent on charities, donations and grants to serve impoverished communities or endangered animals. Surely everyone can say ” I am a servant leader I have helped in this cause or that.” Does this feeling make you a servant leader. What makes one a servant leader? What characters should one possess in order to be a servant leader?
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. Robert K. Greenleaf in “The Servant as Leader.
Focus on the needs on the followers and help them to become more autonomous, shift power to to those being led. – Ken Williams
Every one who wants to be first must be very last, and the servant of them all – Mark 9:13
An essay “ten characteristics of the servant leader” by Larry C. Spears, past president and CEO of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership helped me understand and appreciate servant leadership. Spears distill servant leadership into 10 characteristics: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building community. I have grouped them into three categories: the ‘I’, the ‘other’ and the ‘community’. A person wishing to practice servant leadership must strive to gain a combination of the following characteristics.
The I (listening, awareness and healing)
Are you able to listen to oneself? You as a leader must have the motivation to listen actively to your followers and supports them in decision making. You need to gain self awareness too. Self-awareness help understand issues involving ethics, power and values. You should have the ability to view situations from a more integrated, holistic perspective. A great strength of a servant leader is the ability for healing one’s self and others.
The other (empathy, persuasion and stewardship)
Servant leadership is seen as an obligation to help and serve others. Openness and persuasion are more important than control. You should have first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others. A servant leader attempts to understand and empathize with others. Followers are not only considered subordinates, but as people who need respect and appreciation for their needs, expertise and personal development. As Jo Ann Jones-Burbridge writes in Servant Leadership, “A servant leader does not take advantage of his or her power and status by coercing compliance; rather, he or she tries to persuade them. This particular element offers one of the clearest distinctions between the traditional authoritarian model and the servant leadership model.”
The community (conceptualization, foresight, commitment and building community)
Don’t thing about today only. A servant leader thinks beyond day-to-day realities. Look beyond present challenges and take advantage of the future opportunities. He or she focuses on long-term goals by tapping from the past experiences. A servant leader is convinced that people have an intrinsic value beyond their contributions as followers. Therefore, he or she should nurture the personal, professional and spiritual growth of followers. A servant leader identifies means to build a strong community within his or her followers.
Max DePree, the author of Leadership is an Art states, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”
What do you think is the key characteristic of a servant leader.