I have considered myself a student of Servant Leadership for about five years now. Ever since I enrolled in the Multicultural Leadership Program which focuses on developing servant leaders. Recently I’ve been refreshing my knowledge in this area and digging into the published works of two well-known servant leaders: Robert Greenleaf and Ken Blanchard.
Servant and Leader are usually thought of as being opposites. Yet when you bring them together something beautiful happens: you are able to both serve and lead.
Let’s break it down:
There are two aspects to servant leadership.
- Leadership – your role when you provide vision and strategic direction
- Servant – your role when it is time to implement or operationalize
If people don’t have a compelling vision to serve the only thing they have to serve is their own self-interest. Your job as leader is to provide the compelling vision. Keep in mind that your vision – your picture of the future – should focus on end results. Once people have a compelling vision, they can set goals and define strategic initiatives so people know where to focus their effort right now. The ultimate responsibility remains with the leaders. This should not be delegated to anyone else. This is where the traditional hierarchy comes in with a top down approach. The top of the hierarchy is responsible for setting the vision, and the bottom is responsive to that vision.
By the way, the leadership aspect is necessary for all – corporations, non-profits, churches, community organizations, community initiatives, etc…
Once people are clear on where they are going though, the leader’s role shifts to a service mindset for the task of implementation.
Once it is time for implementation (or operations), it is time to flip the traditional hierarchy into an inverted pyramid such as below. Customers and the people directly serving the customer are at the top. Now the those closest to the customers become responsible for operationalization the vision, and the leadership is responsive to their needs. Your job as the servant leader is now to help your people accomplish their goals, solve problems and live according to the vision.
Becoming a Servant Leader
You can learn to become a servant leader. There are two easy ways to get started:
1) Understand the fundamentals of Servant Leadership
I highly recommend you purchase, read, study, and re-study over your lifetime two books:
You can also check out the The Robert K Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.
These are resources to help you deepen your understanding of servant leadership. There are plenty more, and you know I’m always going to encourage you to keep learning!
2) Develop your skills around 10 Most Common Characteristics of a Servant Leader
We will dig into these more next week, but for now you can reflect on these and identify where you know you have the most work to do.
- Commitment to the growth of people
- Building community
Servant leadership is a proven model that revolutionizes all that we do. It’s a mindset, a philosophy, a cultural practice, and a skillset. I encourage you to find the servant leader within you.
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