Where does servant leadership come from?

The phrase servant leadership was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf when he first used it in his essay published in 1970. In his essay, Greenleaf explains the term "servant leader " and discusses why a new approach to leadership has been created. 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 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.

A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of individuals and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership often involves the accumulation and exercise of power by the 'top of the pyramid', servant leadership is different. The servant leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform at their best. Servant leaders are a revolutionary group that takes the traditional model of power leadership and turns it completely upside down.

This new hierarchy places the people or employees, in a business context, at the top and the leader at the bottom, in charge of serving the employees above them. And that is how servant leaders like it. Servant leadership is a style based on a desire to serve and give back to their community. By putting the needs of others first, you empower people to do their best.

When community members see your passion and commitment through your actions, they want to be connected to you. Servant leadership goes against the belief that leadership is defined as hierarchical, patriarchal and related to wealth or status. Instead, as the name suggests, it focuses on serving others to help them grow, often without the title or recognition that comes with many leadership roles. Robert Greenleaf, the originator of servant leadership theory, chose the name because it is contradictory and the polar opposite of typical leadership theories.

The servant leadership style is based on the idea that leaders prioritise serving the common good. Leaders with this style serve their team and the organisation first. They do not prioritise their own goals. You are a servant leader when you focus on the needs of others before considering your own.

It is a long-term leadership approach, rather than a technique you can adopt in specific situations. Therefore, you can use it with other leadership styles, such as Transformational Leadership. Since its inception, higher education and research leaders have analysed why servant leadership is so successful. Since the turn of the century, servant leadership has become popular in software development through the Scrum and Agile management methodologies.

Moreover, servant leaders focus on developing their communication skills, listening and actually communicating WITH the other person. As a servant leader, you need to be aware of what is going on around you, with your team, and of future threats and opportunities. In fact, in many ways, encouragement is the hallmark expression of a servant leader, and it is a tremendously powerful tool, according to experts. Unlike traditional leaders, a servant leader focuses on coaching and developing individuals, not just on achieving organisational goals.

This is often one of the 10 characteristics of servant leadership that people struggle with the most because it seems a bit vague. A servant leader asks open and follow-up questions as a matter of course, not just when something is wrong. If a better, fairer and more loving society is to be built, one that offers greater creative opportunities for its people, then the most open path is to raise both the capacity to serve and one's own performance as a servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them. Namely, as there are still outstanding questions about the conceptual and empirical overlap between servant leadership and transformational, ethical and authentic leadership, and there are criticisms about how much existing research in this field can tell us, as it is constrained by its own limitations in research design.

In addition, researcher Akuchie explored the religious and spiritual articulations of the servant leadership construct. Darryl Spivey, a faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) who trains executives on servant leadership, asserts that asking the right questions is the secret sauce of great coaching, and is crucial for servant leaders.

Jason Klingler
Jason Klingler

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