What is the role of a servant leader?

A servant leader shares power, puts the needs of others first, helps people develop and optimise their performance, is willing to learn from others and foregoes personal promotion and rewards. Servant leaders use persuasion - rather than their authority - to encourage people to act. They also try to build consensus in groups, so that everyone supports decisions. There have been several critiques of servant leadership.

In one, Sendjaya and Sarros used the same biblical account as Akuchie and claimed that it was Jesus Christ, not Greenleaf, who introduced the notion of servant leadership into everyday human affairs. They argued that this principle of leadership was so important to Christianity that it was picked up by all four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The researchers argued that servant leaders have a particular view of themselves as stewards who are entrusted with developing and enabling followers to reach their full potential. However, Sendjaya and Sarros' research work did not propose a testable framework or distinguish between this and other leadership styles.

Servant leaders support lower-level employees and teams. They help them make decisions, take more responsibility and have the skills and tools they need to do their jobs. This means they can respond and adapt quickly when conditions or needs change. Servant leadership entered the research arena in 1998 with the publication of the first peer-reviewed servant leadership scale, and since then more than 270 peer-reviewed articles have been published in 122 academic journals.

Namely, that doubts remain about the conceptual and empirical overlap between servant leadership and transformational, ethical and authentic leadership, and there is criticism of how much existing research in this field can tell us, as it is constrained by its own limitations in research design. However, servant leadership is problematic in hierarchical and autocratic cultures where managers and leaders are expected to make all the decisions. The Art and Science of Project Leadership is an online video course that can help you adopt the servant leadership style as you increase your project management skills. When it was first introduced, servant leadership was a revolutionary concept, as most people followed the more traditional command-and-control leadership model.

A servant leader leads by example, demonstrating the values and behaviours he or she wants to see in others and speaking to those who are not aligned with those values. The disadvantages of servant leadership are that few leaders have experience in this type of management; adopting this style of leadership may require a difficult cultural change; decisions may take time, which can be detrimental in times of crisis; or staff may be given more responsibility than they are capable of carrying. Another key feature of servant leadership is to take the knowledge learned in the past and apply it to the future so that you and your team can continue to grow. If serving staff is the basic principle of servant leadership, two fundamental practices to achieve that goal are listening carefully and asking questions.

In modern leadership circles, the concept gained much popularity with Robert Greenleaf's 1971 essay, The Servant as Leader. These traits indicate that one is a servant leader because, in general, he or she makes those he or she serves healthier and wiser, guiding others towards self-improvement. Servant leadership is a mindset that reflects a service-first mentality rather than a leader-first mentality. It is our hope that, if the advice offered in this review is heeded to address these problems, research on servant leadership can move forward and continue to offer significant insights to the field of leadership for the next 20 years.

Servant leadership practices appear to have an effect on employees' lives outside the organisations with which they are affiliated. The servant leadership style can increase an employee's motivation and courage to be more creative and innovative.

Jason Klingler
Jason Klingler

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