READER'S FORUM


In this page, we bring to you some of the articles published in our College Journal, Mosaic, issue of 2004. Here is an article written by David Ferral Marbaniang, faculty of Business Administration

Servant Leadership – A Leadership Point to Consider

You have been chosen to lead, and boy, oh boy, aren't you excited. Finally you got the chance to become the "top dog", "numero uno", "the big cheese"! And you can't wait to start leading people – telling them what to do and how to do it. After all, isn't this the power model for leadership? Hey wait! What's that other word which has something to do with "servant"? Yes, you may ask yourself what in the world the word "servant" has got to do with being a leader. Well, aren't those the "small insignificant people" who are supposed to be serving you food and do the laundry for you?

"Whoever would be greatest among you must be servant of all." Those were the words of Jesus – one of the greatest leaders who once walked on the face of the earth. According to Robert K Greenleaf "The premise of servant leadership is that the leader is one who seeks to serve and that this serving is a natural component of the leader." So, think again! True leadership is not about being served; instead it's all about serving.

It is by default that the word "leadership" has been and is wrongly associated with power, control, authority, prestige, popularity, etc. How do words like humility, compassion, gentleness, merciful, pure-in-heart, and peace-maker sound? Not exactly words that come to mind as we look at our world leaders today, are they? Only few people are worthy role models for being servant leaders. Let's check out something more about this word "servant leadership".

Servant Leadership is different from servanthood. No, I'm not talking about being a "doormat". Servant Leadership is all about relationship – a relationship in which one person seeks to influence the thoughts, behaviours, beliefs or values of another person. It is about service, about shepherds who care for the sheep. It is about vision and hope; character and trust; relationships and power (not for keeps, but for delegation); dependency and accountability. And it's about those who wish to make a difference; not change the world!

It takes much more than knowledge to become an outstanding leader today. Leadership demands a servant heart. Servant leaders are not leaders on the basis of their position, but rather lead according to their calling, vision and principles. Apart from humility, compassion, mercy, friendliness, honesty, care, self-sacrifice, empathy, etc. there are a few things that define and give an insight into the personalities and characteristics of servant leaders.


  • Servant leaders are people of integrity - One of the biggest reasons why today's leaders are losing the respect of their followers is that they lack integrity. Their private lives and thoughts contradict their public statements. There are times when we ourselves adopt principles that are popular and appropriate to the moment, rather than sticking to the unpopular and true principles. A servant leader will strive to maintain integrity at all costs even though it's not easy.
  • Never motivated by personal gain - Servant leadership will require us to make sacrifices and set the needs of others above our own. Servant leadership is not based on one's own interests but rather on the interests of others.
  • Stepping out of the comfort zone - many of us hate to do just that. Instead, we are happy with the status quo. Well, a real leader is not afraid of leaving the comfort and security of the known to risk unknown future.
  • Leaders who influence through modelling - This is what I like to call 'preaching through practising'. John C. Maxwell and Jim Dornan in their book 'Becoming A Person of Influence' state that "People are first influenced by what they see." In other words, one cannot influence the other by saying, "do as I say not what I do."
  • Leadership is perceived by the followers - There are leaders who assume that they are leaders because of their position or because they want to be. Have you met anyone who likes to impose himself/herself on someone else just because he/she claims to be a leader? Remember having the title of a leader does not mean you are providing leadership. We can exert every kind of influence, but if the other does not wish to be influenced, then we have not led! Followers have a choice and our leadership will be dependent upon their choosing to follow. Servant leaders seek to convince others to do things rather than relying on formal authority. They are naturally very persuasive and offer compelling reasons when they make requests. They never force others to do things.
  • Excellent listeners - Servant leaders are excellent listeners. They are receptive and genuinely interested in what others have to say. Listening is a skill and is essential for those wanting to become servant leaders.
  • Empowerment - it is one of the most important characteristics and is at the heart of servant leadership. Empowerment involves helping clarify expectations, goals, and responsibilities, and even more importantly, it means letting people do their jobs by enabling them to learn, grow, and progress, and it means allowing for self-direction and freedom to fail; all of this multiplies the followers' strengths and trust in the leader. By empowering followers, servant leaders are allowing them freedom to proceed toward their goals and in the process helps them to turn their dreams into reality. Empowerment is giving up control and letting the followers take charge as and when needed.

Some of the characteristics that have been explained come more easily and naturally to some people than to others. Though it is difficult to be a practising servant leader at all times, yet all should assess the degree to which we have what it takes to become a servant leader. So turn the "power model" upside down – be a servant leader and make an impact!

Reference

  1. Greenleaf, Robert K, Servant Leadership: A Journey Into The Nature Of Legitimate Power And Greatness.
  2. Wright, Walter C, Relational Leadership: A Biblical Model for Leadership Service.
  3. Maxwell, John and Dornan, Jim, Becoming a Person of influence.
  4. Holy Bible: New International Version.
  5. Internet.