Having a servant as a leader seems unconventional to lead anyone, but this aspect is central to the servant leadership philosophy. Servant leadership involves a leader prioritizing the needs of the followers to improve performance and productivity. The paper looks into the central principles of servant leadership theory, its components, and its application in the real world to indicate its advantages. A reflection on how some of the attributes of the theory have been applicable in my life is also included. Servant leadership tenets have influenced my former leadership roles, and I aspire to include more model characteristics in my leadership portfolio.
Part A – Research
Servant leadership theory is a model that prioritizes serving others and emphasizes power-sharing in decision-making, fostering a sense of community, creating a holistic work approach, and better service to others (Smith, 2005). The primary tenets of the leadership theory are the four areas emphasized. Servant leaders encourage the followers’ talents and nurture empowering, participatory environments to create a more motivated and effective workforce, leading to a successful organization (Smith, 2005). Individual actions of servant-leaders can establish a sense of community among the employees to improve success in achieving the organizational objectives. Finally, a servant leader’s crucial purpose and motivation are to promote others’ significance, while corporate success is the derived, ancillary result of servant-leadership (Smith, 2005).
Robert Greenleaf is the pioneer of servant-leadership, and behavioral theorists identified a list of ten characteristics describing the leadership theory in his writings. These characteristics form the components of the leadership theory, and they include awareness, empathy, creating a community, stewardship, listening, commitment to people’s growth, persuasion, conceptualization, healing, and foresight (Smith, 2005). Behavioral scientists have released studies that confirm the critical essence of these characteristics to servant-leadership. Although the scientists have expanded the components to include accompanying and functional attributes, most of Greenleaf’s described attributes are accompanying, such as listening, persuasion, and stewardship (Smith, 2005). Theorists suggest that these attributes emanate from individual leaders’ inner beliefs and values and inform their deeds and decision-making conduct (Smith, 2005). Therefore, values are the core creators of any leadership philosophy.
Servant leaders are revolutionary in nature, turning the tables of traditional power leadership models. The new hierarchy places employees or people at the top and leaders at the bottom serving the workers above them (Smith, 2005). Southwest Airlines exemplifies servant leadership in practice under the leadership of founder Herb Kelleher (Tarallo, 2018). The founder’s philosophy of prioritizing employees has led to a highly involved, low turnover workforce and more than three decades of consecutive profitability, a rare record in the blusterous airline industry (Tarallo, 2018). Barter, another servant leader, increased the revenues of a tactical communications equipment supplier, Datron, by a total of $190 million in half a dozen years (Tarallo, 2018). The changes marked by these outstanding results are attributed to positive alterations in the internal operations.
Leadership models that prioritize employees are bound to make optimistic changes in performance and productivity. A study that focused on the attributes of servant leadership established that the dimensions of service, trust, altruism, and love led to significant positive contributions in enhancing employees’ performance (Sarwar et al., 2021). With improvement in workforce performance, productivity will increase leading to increased output, revenues, and profitability. Apart from employees’ performance, servant leadership was found to positively impact organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), organizational culture, and organizational commitment (Harwiki, 2016). These incredible impacts create better working conditions and environments for employees, leading to organizational success. Servant leadership is the latest most promising leadership philosophy aspiring leaders should utilize to achieve positive changes and organizational success.
Part B – Reflection
Servant leadership is focused on enriching the talents and capabilities of team members. In my leadership roles, I have attempted to encourage people around me to think for themselves and try to come up with their own ideas. As a group leader, I fostered collaboration among the group members by requesting them to engage their creative thinking and develop diverse ideas to enrich the group work. I advised them that they can become innovative on any subject regardless of their capabilities, so long as they do quality research. I also did my part as an equal member of the team, and it was difficult to pinpoint the group leader when we were in session. The strategy results were outstanding as we produced one of the best group projects, which motivated us to continue in the same spirit.
Motivation is a core value in servant leadership philosophy, and it distinguishes the model from other management theories. The motivation to lead arises from a person’s central belief system. As highlighted by my former football captain, the intrinsic reason behind’s one motivation to lead could ruin their leadership. He only led for the privileges to be called a captain or a leader as he did little coordination and forced his orders on team players. When I was selected as the team captain, things changed for the better, as I consulted my team members and coach on the best strategies to play and win a match. A key aspect of my captaincy success was my egalitarian belief that I was no better than the people I led, which created the difference between my servant leadership approach and the former captain’s conventional power management philosophy.
While some employees complain about horrible bosses, others applaud their revolutionary leaders who have brought positive changes in their organizations. I aspire to be one of these leaders in the future while embodying the principles of servant leadership. I have embraced some of the attributes of servant leadership in my former leadership roles, and I hope to incorporate more characteristics of the leadership philosophy. Becoming a servant leader would require me to enhance my leadership portfolio by encouraging thought diversity, building a trust culture, having an unselfish mindset, and promoting leadership in others. Servant leadership is the model that should inform the qualities and attributes of future aspiring leaders.
Attributes of servant leadership have been present in my group leader and football captain positions, and I hope to include more model characteristics in my future leadership roles. Servant leadership theory is an unconventional model that seeks to augment followers’ capabilities and improve their performance. A person’s internal values and beliefs would influence their emulation of the theory’s components. Ambitious leaders can employ servant leadership philosophy to lead change and revolutions in their workplaces. Organizational sustainability is highly dependent on current and future leaders changing their conventional power management models to using the servant leadership approach.
Harwiki, W. (2016). The impact of servant leadership on organization culture, organizational commitment, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), and employee performance in women cooperatives. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 219, 283-290. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.04.032
Sarwar, G., Cavaliere, L., Ammar, K., & Afzal, F. (2021). The impact of servant leadership on employee performance. International Journal of Management (IJM), 12(5): 165-173. DOI: 10.34218/IJM.12.5.2021.014 https://iaeme.com/Home/issue/IJM?Volume=12&Issue=5
Smith, C. (2005). Servant leadership: The leadership theory of Robert K. Greenleaf. Management of Information Organization. Info 640: 1-17. https://www.boyden.com/media/just-what-the-doctor-ordered-15763495/Leadership%20%20Theory_Greenleaf%20Servant%20Leadership.pdf
Tarallo, M. (2018, May 17). The art of servant leadership. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/pages/the-art-of-servant-leadership.aspx