The History Of Servant Leadership Theology Religion Essay Example
The History Of Servant Leadership Theology Religion Essay Example

The History Of Servant Leadership Theology Religion Essay Example

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  • Pages: 12 (3277 words)
  • Published: September 19, 2017
  • Type: Case Study
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Although the term Servant Leadership is new, the concept of servant leading has been around for thousands of years. Throughout history, many authors have referred to this concept without giving it a specific name (Benjamin Lichtenwalner, 2008). According to Lichtenwalner (2008), some of these authors include:

  • Lao Tzu (600 B.C.) who said, "The greatest leader forgets himself and attends to the development of others."
  • Chanakya, in his book Arthashastra (375 B.C.), wrote, "The king leader shall see as well, not what pleases himself but what pleases his subjects followers. The king leader is a paid retainer and enjoys the resources of the state together with the people."

However, as stated in Matthew 23:11, "The greatest among you shall be your servant." The one who is the greatest among you must behave like the you


ngest, and the leader like the servant, as mentioned in Luke 22:26.

The term "servant leadership" was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970, arising from a natural desire to function and be effective. Greenleaf's introduction of this concept gained popularity in the 1970s.

According to Greenleaf and other writers, servant leadership is not precisely defined by Greenleaf himself. However, it can be described as a leadership philosophy that considers the characteristics of individuals, work, and society. It requires a spiritual understanding of personality, vision, mission, and environment. A servant leader is someone who prioritizes being a servant before anything else, who lives alongside others, and aims to provide for the happiness and welfare of people and the community.

The prioritization of the needs of those being led and constant support towards

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problem-solving and personal growth are key characteristics of a servant leader. Their primary focus is on the well-being of individuals, as they believe that motivated and satisfied people are more likely to achieve their goals. In his essay "The Servant as Leader," Greenleaf identified this mindset as starting with an innate desire to serve and then making a conscious choice to lead. This type of leader differs fundamentally from those who primarily seek power or material possessions. The range between these two extremes reflects the diverse nature of human behavior (Greenleaf, 1970, p.13).

Servant Leadership: Contrasting Other Leading Styles

The main distinction in leading styles is created by bossy (autocratic), participative (democratic), and individualistic styles. The autocratic style focuses on clearly defined tasks and controlling their execution and outcomes. The executive holds decision-making power. In contrast, the democratic style involves employees in decision-making, giving them influencing power. The individualistic style (rarely used) places all trust in followers to perform their tasks independently.

The leader believes in the achievements and capabilities of their followers, trusting that they can successfully complete the task in their own unique way. Servant Leadership can be paired with participative leadership, while authoritarian leadership does not align with the guiding principle. The primary responsibility of a servant leader is to motivate, assist, and empower followers to unlock their full potential and abilities.

This paragraph discusses the concept of democratic decision-making and the impact of leadership styles on performance and employee satisfaction according to the managerial grid theory by Blake and Mouton. Nevertheless, it raises the question of whether a leadership style can be universally accepted or applied without considering situational contexts

(Staehle, W.H.: Management, p. 842; Neuberger, O.).

: Fuhrung und Fuhrung lassen, p.515 ). Die Art des dienenden Fuhrens geht uber das mit dem Mitarbeiter verbundene Verhalten hinaus und fordert eine Neugestaltung der hierarchischen Beziehung zwischen Fuhrer und Gefolgschaft. Dies bedeutet nicht, dass das Beste an einer demokratischen Art in jeder Situation durchgesetzt werden muss, sondern dass der Schwerpunkt der Fuhrungsaufgaben darin besteht, die Leistung und Zufriedenheit der Mitarbeiter zu verbessern.

Das Potenzial; das Ratsel der dienenden Fuhrung

Robert Greenleaf hatte faszinierende Weisheit und Einsicht in Dinge, die wirklich wichtig sind. In der Vergangenheit, als die meisten konventionellen Fuhrungskrafte die Ziele nur weniger forderten, forderte Greenleaf sie auf, auch die Not anderer und der weniger privilegierten Menschen zu beachten.

Greenleaf's work highlights the significance of leaders who prioritize the well-being of all stakeholders, such as employees, communities, and future generations. He poses the question of how to create a world where everyone can thrive while also considering the potential limitations on others. This challenge holds relevance for contemporary leaders, institutions, and individuals alike. Throughout his career, Greenleaf dedicated himself to researching and educating in management with the goal of enhancing performance in both profit and non-profit organizations. Being deeply knowledgeable about organizational dynamics, he shared his insights through various writings like essays and books that focused on care and "The Servant as Leader". (Berrett-Koehler, 1999)

Greenleaf advocated for leaders to prioritize serving others in his writings. He advised formal leaders to reflect on two crucial questions: "Whom do you serve?" and "For what purpose?" (SanFacon & Spears, 2008). Additionally, he suggested that leaders adopt a more comprehensive approach to work, foster a sense of community, and empower others in decision-making.

Through his work and writings, Greenleaf aimed to inspire both thought and action towards creating a better society. It is important to note that the terms servant and leader are often seen as opposing concepts. However, when these contrasting ideas are harmoniously combined in an artistic manner, they give rise to a mysterious outcome.

Upon initial inspection, the mystery appears to contradict common sense; however, there is an underlying proposition that it may indeed be true. The primary objective is to awaken leaders and managers to new possibilities, ones that surpass traditional modes of thinking. This raises the question: "Who is this enigmatic 'servant-leader'?" Greenleaf provides the answer in the following statement: It begins with an innate desire to serve, to prioritize service above all else. Subsequently, conscious choice leads one to aspire to lead. The distinction becomes apparent in the servant-first's attentive efforts to ensure that the highest priority needs of others are being met.

The text expresses the idea that the best kind of trial for leaders is whether those they serve grow as individuals, become healthier, wiser, more independent, and more likely to succeed. It also questions the impact of leadership on the least privileged in society and whether they will benefit or be further deprived. According to Greenleaf (1973, p7), a servant-leader is someone who dedicates themselves to serving others and assumes positions of leadership in an official capacity. Several positional leaders have embraced this concept and incorporated it into their practices (Sanfacon et al., 2008). This approach has contributed to the growth and promotion of servant-leadership in recent years. Importantly, Greenleaf's essay is titled "The Servant as Leader," not "The Leader as

Servant" (Sanfacon et al., 2008).

He urged individuals who possess a natural inclination to serve others to contribute to the betterment of society by supporting businesses, thus promoting servant-leadership. Servant-leadership is a transformative and enduring philosophy that has the potential to bring about positive and peaceful change in society and the world.

The Ethical Dimensions of Leadership

Greenleaf stressed the significance of ethics in leadership, as evident by the name he chose for his non-profit organization, The Centre for Applied Ethics, established in 1964. According to Greenleaf, ethics provide guidance for effective leadership and foster a more improved world. Ethicists argue that sound moral judgment requires a comprehensive assessment of motivations, methods, and outcomes.

Motivations, means, and ends are fundamental aspects of any action. Motivations answer the question "why" we do something, means answer "how" we do it, and ends refer to the desired outcomes or consequences. Ethical considerations require all three of these aspects to be evaluated and considered beneficial, fair, and necessary by all stakeholders involved or affected.

It is important to explain each dimension of servant leadership in order to understand its doctrine and practice. This also helps us understand the interconnectedness of these dimensions and the responsibilities that servant leaders have in each dimension (SanFacon & Spears, 2008).

Motivations & purposes:

The process of human development involves growing more concerned about others as we become more developed as individuals. As our development progresses, so does our care and concern for others. However, this does not mean neglecting ourselves; instead, we focus more on improving the lives of others (Shambhala, 1996).

Whether we are leaders or followers, our purpose is to function. This is the core principle of servant leadership,

and the foundation from which the desire to make a positive difference in the world is born. This internal space is where change begins, both within ourselves and in society. It forms a spectrum that spans from self to others.

Each of us falls somewhere on the spectrum of caring, but we have a responsibility to serve all - ourselves, others, loved ones, family, community, other communities, living systems, future generations, and creation itself. Initially, our growth involves moving towards this expanded embrace. At some point in our journey, even if we have found comfort and material gain within the current order, we become willing to modify that order for the advancement of a world that benefits everyone. This leads to genuine transformation without violence. According to Stanislav Grof (1994), those individuals develop qualities such as global citizenship awareness, concern for all forms of life, deep ecological sensitivity; they embrace spirituality that is universal and inclusive while opposing violence and rejecting aggression as an acceptable form of conflict resolution.

Stanislav Grof (1994, p317) suggests that humanity's only genuine chance for survival is undergoing a radical internal transformation and achieving a new level of consciousness.

Means and Procedures

Motivations and purposes have a significant impact on the origins of our energy for taking action, while agencies and procedures determine how this energy manifests in the world. There are two main categories through which this energy is expressed: (1) ways of being and (2) institutional systems. The former refers to the individual leader, while the latter refers to the organizational models and facilities utilized by the leader.

Ends ; Consequences

The aim of servant leadership is to improve the world

for all individuals. However, this objective will require a lengthy process. In modern society, economic and social systems have created divisions among people, resulting in various social classes. Certain individuals enjoy wealth and privileges, while the majority of the global population lives in severe poverty ( Economic growth has predominantly favored only a small portion of society, leaving the poorest 20% without basic necessities. Our business organizations are characterized by hierarchical structures where there is one leader and numerous employees (Ernest Laszlo, 2003).

The conditions mentioned above, including stratification, clash, and struggle, are all fueled by these factors. Furthermore, the devastation of nature and life systems caused by consumer-based civilization exacerbates these conditions. All of this negative energy originates from the adverse effects of engineering, posing a threat to all life on Earth. In essence, the universe we inhabit is unsustainable.

According to Ernest Laszlo (2003), we cannot remain stagnant nor can we return to the past. We can only move forward, but not on the same path we have been on. We must discover a new path. (You Can Change the Worlds, 2003) Servant-leadership is one of these paths in the new direction, promoting a balance between personal interest and the greater good.

In this aspect, servant-leaders are expected to respond to their efforts by: switching to products and services that support a sustainable world, embracing a Triple Bottom Line - supporting people, profits, and the planet, and considering the practice of ethical symmetry - giving equal importance to the needs of all those affected by the effort.

A Chart of Servant-Leadership
George SanFacon & Larry C. Spears (2008) presented a chart, Dimensions of Servant-Leadership, which provides

an outline of these dimensions and their common relation.

I. The Servant-Leader-Ways of Being, Capacities & Functions
- A better world can be built by better people.
- There are ways of being, capacities and functions that embody servant-leadership, both representing its expression and promoting its realization in the world. These can be learned and deepened through practice.
- Enhance personal capacities for: awareness, presence, availability, reflection, empathy, listening and receptiveness, acceptance of others, intuition, generosity, foresight, simplicity and transparency.
- Fulfill organizational roles of steward, role model, therapist, change agent, and community builder.

II. The System-Organization & [continued]


  • Institutional and organisational systems are designed to empower and support people, rather than exploit and harm them.
  • Power is shared among the members. Leaders are considered "first among peers" within their teams, instead of being seen as the sole authority at the top of hierarchical structures.
  • The transition to a shared administration model that incorporates the concept of "first among peers".
  • Utilize participatory approaches to address workplace issues and practices.
  • Implement new-paradigm strategies, such as "open book" management, increased sharing, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), and self-directed teams (SDTs).


  • Those affected by these changes will experience a society that promotes justice and love, with greater opportunities for everyone.
  • The systems created will be socially, politically, and environmentally sustainable.
  • An inclusive world where each individual has the opportunity to discover and fulfill their true potential.
  • The availability of goods and services that contribute to a sustainable world.
  • An embrace of the Triple Bottom

Line approach, promoting social equity, generating profits, and sustaining the planet.

  • The practice of ethical balance, considering the legitimate needs of all those impacted by the organization.
    • Reality-A Seamless Whole

    Though we may find it useful to impose boundaries on the world in order to comprehend it, there is an undeniable unity that permeates throughout. Despite our tendency to divide servant-leadership into separate components such as objectives, processes, and outcomes, it ultimately exists as an interconnected and cohesive entity within the world.

    It is necessary for these dimensions to come together to form the existing world. Placing underperformance in one area will have adverse effects on other parts as well as the whole. The various dimensions of servant-leadership are interconnected and function most effectively as a unified whole.

    Characteristics of being a servant leader

    Larry C. Spears, President and CEO of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership since 1990, has proposed 10 essential qualities for the development of a servant leader. These qualities include the importance of listening and effective communication skills in servant leadership.

    A servant leader actively listens to and supports their subordinates in decision making. They must be able to understand nonverbal communication and rely on their intuition to understand what the body, mind, and spirit are expressing. This concept is known as "Servant-leadership" and it involves a leader empathizing with others and understanding their emotions and actions.

    A servant leader views others not only as subordinates/workers, but also as individuals who deserve respect, attention, and appreciation for their growth. Thus, leadership is a unique form of human work that ultimately leads to a competitive advantage (Leonhard J., 2007).

    Healing is another quality

  • that sets a Servant Leader apart from others. A servant leader serves as a counselor to help others solve their problems and conflicts. This trait fosters a business culture where the workplace is dynamic, enjoyable, and free from the fear of failure.

    Awareness is crucial for a servant leader, as they need to stay updated about everything around them, especially self-awareness. They should have the capacity to have a comprehensive understanding of the situations. This enables them to comprehend values and ethics better. On the other hand, Robert Greenleaf merged his spiritual beliefs with servant leadership by emphasizing persuasion rather than coercion to achieve conformity. This distinction creates a clear boundary between servant leadership and other conventional leadership models.

    Conceptualization: According to Larry C. Spears (2005), a servant leader has the capacity to focus on long-term operational goals, going beyond the scope of daily tasks. This leader develops a unique perspective by emphasizing the significance of life.

    Consequently, peculiar aims and executing techniques are originated by the servant leader (Leonhard J., 2007). Foresight refers to the expectancy of the likeliness of a state of affairs to occur. It enables the servant leader to learn about and gain a better understanding of the past and current state of affairs. Additionally, it helps the servant leader in identifying future consequences.

    Stewardship: The primary responsibility of an organization's leadership is to ensure that the organization is managed in a way that benefits society. As a result, servant-leadership is viewed as a duty to help others. Emphasizing persuasion and openness is considered more important than exerting control and giving direct orders. Commitment to the development of individuals: A servant leader understands that

    people have inherent value beyond their contributions as employees. Consequently, the leader must focus on the personal, professional, and spiritual growth of their workers.

    A servant leader values and includes the input of others in decision making. They also prioritize building a strong community within the organization and aim to create a genuine community among businesses and institutions. It is important to note that the 10 features mentioned above are not exhaustive, according to Larry C. Spears (2005). However, these features should not be seen as the only way to achieve goals.

    The incorporation of certain qualities can greatly benefit an individual's personal development schemes (Leonhard J., 2007).

    The Link Between Servant Leadership Philosophy and Leadership Theory

    According to the information on the Businessballs website, there is a distinction between leadership philosophies (such as "Servant leadership" or "ethical leadership") and leadership theories (such as functional and situational leadership theories).

    According to Gillet, Cartwright, and Van Vugt (2010), the former is a guideline for leaders on how to behave, while the latter teaches leaders how to be more effective. Throughout history, various theories of leadership, such as traits, behavioral, and situational theories, have specifically discussed the philosophy of servant leadership.

    However, the manifestation of Integrated Psychological leading theory, as characterized by James Scouller's Three Levels of Leadership Model (2011), has altered this. Scouller's theoretical account, which incorporates older theories while focusing on the leader's psychology, emphasizes the importance of leaders supporting and caring about their followers' needs as much as their own, and viewing leadership as a service to others (Scouller, J, from The Three Levels of Leadership, 2011). As a result, the connection between the philosophy of servant leadership and contemporary

    leadership theory has strengthened in the 21st century.

    - This concept is viewed as a long-term concept for living and working and therefore has the potential to positively influence society (Greenleaf, 2002).
    - The model treatment of employees leads to excellent treatment of customers by employees and high customer loyalty.
    - There is a strong identification between employees and the company.
    - An exceptional corporate culture is developed.
    - Leaders of a company define themselves by their significance to people.
    - Servant Leadership can be used as a principle to improve staff return on investment in all sectors.Directors who empower and respect their staff experience improved public presentation. However, there are disadvantages to servant leadership, including the perception of excessive features and the need for long-term application. In conclusion, effective servant-leaders engage all dimensions of servant-leadership and view them holistically as a holistic approach to their work.

    Such leaders create environments where individuals and communities can heal, grow, and prosper through love and trust. As a result, organizational life gradually shifts from being a monotonous and confrontational battle to become a joyful journey of collaboration. Through this process, both natural followers and positional leaders transform into servant-leaders, the journey itself becomes the goal, and the world becomes a better place for everyone. In order to maintain a positive trajectory in the 21st century, it is crucial to uphold high moral values and pursue excellence. With concepts like Robert Greenleaf's servant-leadership, this way of life is now achievable.

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