Servant leaders are good listeners. Their decision making skills are unique and are able to communicate flawlessly while still putting across their intended message. They have the gift of listening to everything that is communicated to them even if the information may not be relevant. They are also capable of identifying people’s will and ultimately clarifying it. Such leaders listen and at the same time reflect on whatever it is that they are told.
A good servant leader should be compassionate. He/she should be in a position to assess a desperate situation and try to visualize being in a similar situation. By doing so, the servant leader is able to identify with the situation at hand. This way, they are able to offer objective advice.
Servant leaders have the unique ability to heal themselves as well as others. After traumatic experiences, many are bound to get disillusioned in life. However, despite the fact that disappointments are part of human life, servant leaders realize that it is part of their responsibility to offer consolation to those who are hurt by tragic experiences they undergo in life.
The leaders are self- conscious and understand themselves in a superb way. This makes them well versed with issues pertaining values and ethics. Servant leaders are therefore capable of approaching issues in a more integrated perspective. Because of this, they are capable of making informed decisions. They have peace within themselves and never seek for solace from other quarters.
Servant leaders do not use their authority to force things down on people but rather, they use their persuasion skills to get things done their way. They prefer to convince rather than prevailing on people to comply. This is the point of departure between the traditional authoritarian leadership and the servant leadership. Servant leaders are unequalled consensus builders.
Servant leaders are capable of conceptualizing issues. They live over and beyond day to day realities. They are able to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
They employ their past experiences and present realities in making informed decisions.
Servant leaders are stewards. They believe that the first thing a leader ought to do is to serve other people’s interest. They emphasize the importance of transparency and persuasion as opposed to practicing full control within an organization.
Good servant leaders should be dedicated to the success of others. They believe that people have inbuilt capabilities that go beyond their input as workers. With that in mind, these leaders are ever committed in ensuring that each and every person in an organization gets equal opportunities for growth.
Discussion of servant leadership
‘Servant Leadership’ was authored by Robert Greenleaf in his1970 essay titled ‘servant as a leader’. He believed and advocated for the notion that leaders ought to be the keepers of an institution’s resources, a concept that was developed by other writers after his death. For instance, according to Robert Greenleaf, to qualify to be a servant leader, one ought to be a good listener, empathetic, foresighted, persuasive, in a position to conceptualize issues, a healer, be aware of his capabilities, develop a culture of stewardship and participate in growth and building of communities. Greenleaf proposed a kind of leadership where a lot of emphasis should be laid on service to people such as the employees, the customers, and the general community. His perspective calls for power-sharing when it comes to decision making within any set up. According to Greenleaf, a servant leader is an individual who serves others first. In his essay ‘A Servant Leader’ Greenleaf asserts that servant leadership begins when one naturally yearns to put other people’s interests before his/her own. The choice to serve other people first creates a desire to lead them. The most important question that a servant leader should consider is if the people he/ she serves increase in wisdom, health, autonomy and self-determination, so that they can feel motivated to serve others in the same way they were served. Servant leaders should ask themselves if the services they offer have any impact on the less privileged people within the society. This kind of leadership should be long term and transformational in order to create positive change within our settings (Greenleaf, 2002 p.10).
Greenleaf’s Leadership Perspective vs. Heifetz’s Perspective on Ethical Leadership
According to Heifetz, leaders should make use of their authority to coerce people into action. This perspective claimed to avail a favorable environment for the workers. The leadership is also supposed to create an environment where employees can nurture their talents. According to Heifetz, leaders should also be empathetic. In this context, followers are supposed to feel safe when handling challenging tasks. The leaders should hire other people’s services in order to serve their interests and ensure appropriate decisions. On his part, Greenleaf advocates for persuasion rather than force while getting things done. He asserts that leaders should focus on the needs of their followers, empathize with them and take care of them. He explains that leaders should also carter for the needs of the less fortunate within the society, by ensuring that there are no inequalities and social injustices while still exerting less control on their subjects and making their followers feel significant by involving them in decision making (Greenleaf, 2002 p.11).
Comparing and contrasting the perspectives
Ethical perspectives on leadership were fronted by Burns, Greenfield and Heifetz. Heifetz laid much emphasis on how leaders should help their followers to face conflicting values. His perspective addresses workers’ values as well as those of the organization and community around them. Leaders, according to this perspective, should use their authority to engage their followers into action. They should only facilitate the decision making processes and ensure that the followers focus on important issues. Heifetz also argues that, leaders should assist their subjects to change and focus on personal growth.
On the other hand, Burns’ advanced theory of transformational leadership majored on the follower’s needs, values and morals (Northouse, 2007, p.138). The theory suggested that leaders should help their followers in their struggle with conflicting values. This perspective also stressed liberty, justice and equality. The theory postulated that the connection between a leader and a follower makes both the leader and the follower moral and thus, leaders are under the obligation to assist their followers to rise to higher levels of functioning (Bass, 1990, p.13).
Bass, B. M., & Stogdill, R. M. (1990). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership: theory, research and managerial applications (3rd ed.). New York: Free Press.
Greenleaf, R. K. (2002). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness (25th anniversary ed.). New York: Paulist Press.
Northouse, P.G. (2007). Leadership: Theory and Practice (4th Ed.). California: Sage Publications.