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There have been decades of debates regarding leadership. Different theories of leadership have emerged during the past several decades. However, all of them agree on one unique characteristic of leadership, which is leading, motivating to move forwards, and making the change. Many people have the potential of a leader, but only very few become significant leaders. The thing is in the combination of leadership traits each leader has.
Additionally, the success of a leader depends on the style of leadership chosen by this person. The history of humankind has numerous examples of exemplary leadership. Cesar Chaves is one of the extraordinary leaders who had managed to change something not only in his life but also in the lives of thousands of people he fought for as a leader. His style of leadership was servant leadership that Chavez used to become the change agent for his country and his people.
Considering the peculiarities of the chosen leadership style, the paper aims at exploring the servant leadership style, defining what a change agent is, and explaining how Cesar Chavez embodies this definition.
The concept of servant leadership is not new as the similar idea can be found in the Bible and the actions of Christ. However, the contemporary idea of servant leadership belongs to Robert K. Greenleaf. In his essay “The Servant as Leader,” published in 1970, Greenfield coined such words as “servant-leader” as well as “servant leadership” (Ferch & Spears, 2011, p. 57). Despite the fact that in the essay, Greenleaf emphasized the philosophical views on serving as the method to achieve leadership, further evaluation of his ideas by numerous scholars developed the following elements inherent solely to servant leadership (Northouse, 2015).
The first element is the importance of the moral aspect of leadership. It means that not only the servant-leader should be highly moral and have the necessary integrity, but his actions should be aimed at the encouragement of the followers as well. These followers evaluate the moral basis of such a leader as well as his organizational goals and current visions.
The second element is the focus on followers of the servant-leader for their own benefit but not the greater good of the entire organization. The focus should also be on the process of developing relationships with the followers on the long-term basis to encourage them to grow, develop, and eventually get the maximum of their potential (Northouse, 2015). The third element is the interest of the servant-leader in the success of every stakeholder such as employees, communities, and entire society. This concern includes the least privileged stakeholders as well (Northouse, 2015). Finally, the fourth element is self-reflection of the servant-leader as the counter activity to the possible hubris.
A Change Agent
Changes are vital in the process of improvement. It can be addressed to an organization or a human being, or to anything that should be improved. Therefore, changes require catalyzers or change agents. According to Lunenburg (2010), “The individual or group that undertakes the task of initiating and managing change in an organization is known as a change agent” (p. 1).
Change agents can be of different types and can have different roles, but their main task is to initiate, facilitate, and support changes that lead to the improvement. Every organization would it be some business, a group of people, or the entire nation require change agents. Lunenburg (2010) concludes his study as follows: “A change agent is anyone who has the skill and power to guide and facilitate the change effort” (p. 5).
It means that a change agent is a leader by default. This person has the necessary skills and the power to initiate changes and support the process until the moment when these changes become the new stable state. The cycle of changes repeats then.
Cesar Chavez as a Change Agent
It is quite possible that Cesar Chavez would be surprised if someone addressed him with kind words about his leadership charisma. However, it is an undisputable fact that Chavez had an exemplary servant-leader style of leadership. His credo was to serve people first and only then dare to demand something in return.
Among the most noticeable features of Cesar Chavez’s approach to achieving his goals were the remarkably strong commitment to the non-violent course of actions, sacrificial devotion of his life to the chosen cause, and very strict attitude to the ethics at work (Ferch & Spears, 2011). The same features Chavez wanted to see in his followers.
The main goal of Chavez was to change the labor system present at farms in America of the 1960s. Back then, farm workers were treated very inappropriately, they had very few rights, and suffered from such injustice (Ferch & Spears, 2011). Chavez created the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in 1962 to support labor campaigns he decided to run. As a great servant-leader, Chavez wanted to force the farm owners and interested parties to provide farm workers with appropriate rights and respect. He emphasized that treatment of these people as slaves or animals was unacceptable and had to be stopped.
Caesar Chavez had a unique approach to protests. The concept of the strikes was a complete rejection of any kind of violence (Ferch & Spears, 2011). It was a very smart move because the opposing side had strong positions and connections in the region, so violent confrontation could have brought more harm than positive result. Chavez became a change agent when he convinced his followers all over the country to peacefully boycott the production of the farms where workers were treated badly.
Peaceful approach was the game changer in this situation. After the very complicated but persistent withstanding with large farm corporations, in 1967, the contract was signed between the large growers and workers. It was the victory of Chavez’s methods and beliefs (Ferch & Spears, 2011). Cesar Chavez proved the world that dedication to the right cause based on servant leadership could be victorious.
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Summing, the paper has explored the servant leadership style, defined what a change agent is, and explained how Cesar Chavez embodies this definition. This great man knew that to demand something from people, it would be necessary to give something first. Cesar Chavez realized the meaning of the concept to serve his people as an outstanding leader. Among the distinguished features of his leadership style, the most noticeable was a very strong belief that violence was not an option to be used in struggle for the right cause.
Cesar Chavez was a change agent because he showed people how the greater cause could be bigger than a man. His actions, his unshakable commitment to own ideals, and readiness to sacrifice have made Cesar Chavez one of the outstanding leader who made the difference, who became the driving force for the fundamental changes in society.
Ferch, S.R., & Spears, L.C. (2011). The spirit of servant-leadership. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Lunenburg, F.C. (2010). Managing change: The role of the change agent. International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration, 13(1), 1-5. Web.
Northouse, P.G. (2015). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.