When did servant leadership develop?

There have been several criticisms of servant leadership. In one such critique, 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 leadership principle 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 tasked with developing and empowering 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 leadership is a classic concept, but the term was coined in 1970, when Robert K. Greenleaf published his essay, The Servant as Leader. Greenleaf argued: "The servant leader is servant first.

To help teach others how to become servant leaders, here are 10 principles of servant leadership that focus on personal decisions and how one interacts with others. However, this conceptualisation by these researchers does not differ from leadership theories such as transformational leadership. Over time, the served are driven to also possess the traits of a servant leader, continuing the spread of the leadership style. Darryl Spivey, a faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) who trains executives in servant leadership, asserts that asking the right questions is the secret sauce of great coaching, and is crucial for servant leaders.

With a traditional leadership approach, the leader encourages people to do their work by providing guidance, direction and motivation. This style of leadership is building a track record of success among managers who focus on improving their people and their community. These scales were created because, while servant leadership can have many positive aspects, its downside is that if the leader does not behave ethically, practising servant leadership for the benefit of the organisation is meaningless and far-fetched. There is ongoing research on servant leadership, and leaders who practice this style of leadership must ensure that they do so in an honest and ethical manner.

Similarly, researcher Akuchie explored the religious and spiritual articulations of the servant leadership construct. A servant is not a leader in traditional teachings, but by redefining and rediscovering what a leader is and does, you will see that the servant leader mindset is better suited to lead by developing strong relationships based on trust. Greenleaf concluded that a new leader must be someone with whom servants or workers can relate. As a servant leader, he must be aware of what is going on around him, with his team, and of future threats and opportunities.

Servant leadership and traditional leadership employ different techniques and deliver very different results. If that conjures up your ideal of socially responsible organisations, you are probably thinking of places where servant leadership is the norm. During onboarding, after initial introductions, familiarisation conversations and explanations of how things work, the servant leader should solicit the new employee's observations, impressions and opinions, Timmes says. Numerous researchers and leadership experts have created scales and dimensions to differentiate levels of servant leadership practices, as well as to assess servant leadership behaviours.

Jason Klingler
Jason Klingler

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