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Servant and Ethical Leadership Definition Definition Essay

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Updated: Aug 20th, 2019


Various scholars have studied leadership concept as a means of seeking to understand leadership better and improve on it. Organisations and teams are mainly interested in exploiting this subject matter because it plays a pivotal role in the attainment of goals and success (Marques, 2007).

This paper analyses leadership as a subject matter, exploring on the servant and ethical theory, on the one hand, and the charismatic and transformational leadership theory. In particular, it singles out Abraham Lincoln who was a servant leader and Steve Jobs who was a charismatic leader as examples of leaders in each of the theories respectively.

Servant and Ethical Leadership

According to this theoretical framework on leadership, the most critical aspect about leadership is providing service to others (Russell, 2001). In other words, any leader is servant to the people he serves and those who follow him. The servant leadership theory revolves around four important principles, which every leader should posses to qualify as a servant leader.

Service to others

Servant-leadership is only practical when a leader takes up servanthood role as regards his interactions with followers. The heart for helping others gives birth to leaders who are genuine and justifiable. This is in contrast to leaders who are self-centred or leaders who amass power for their benefit.

A servant leader, therefore, must derive the motivation to encourage others such that they may envision and feel greatness. While organisation success is an important feature of leadership, it remains to be servant-leadership’s indirect, derived outcome.

Holistic approach

The main viewpoint of this leadership model, as identified by Greenleaf (1996), is the fact that “work exists for the person as much as the person exists for the work”. In essence, the challenge on organizations is to rethink the whole connection involving the people, organisations, as well as the society, on a broader perspective.

As a servant leader, much emphasis should be on encouraging others to become their real selves, both as professionals as personalities. This, in turn, benefits the long-term organisational performance and interests.

Upholding sense of community

Part of a servant leader’s most important role is to ensure that the sense of community is upheld. This particularly helps in knowledge acquisition and management, which is critical in any leadership scenario. The followers and the leader alike form the community, and maintaining the sense of community makes each of the members to remain jointly liable for the others (Maguire, 2012).

Power sharing in decision-making

A servant leader cultivates servant-leadership in others. This is done through encouraging followers and their talents, empowering environments, and nurturing participation of the followers.

People who are led by servant leaders enjoy the opportunity to share the power that their leader has since a servant leader empowers his followers (Russell, 2001). Servant leadership causes the organizational structure to be inverted, where the employees and clients are placed at the top, while the leaders remain at the bottom (Sarkus, 1996).

Attributes of Servant-Leadership


Communication is critical in this leadership model, as it enables the active demonstration of respect for others. Being a true a servant, the leader relies on communication as a tool for receiving feedback details from the followers.


A servant-leader must mentally envisage his consciousness into another individual’s. The leader does not reject but rather empathizes, as a way of motivating their followers and winning their total contribution and support. Empathy makes the followers appreciate the fact that they are accepted in their condition or state.


The leader must have the ability to make whole, such that he may be able to find wholeness out of the shared human desire. The healing works through supporting it in others.


A servant leader cultivates a sense of group togetherness by persuading group members or members of an organization in a candid and gentle manner. Group compliance is not achieved through position power. Personal relations are the most important building blocks that the servant leader depends on in order to succeed in persuading others (Cramm, 2007).


This ability is particularly useful for the servant-leader because it enhances the ability of the leader to arrive at solutions that may not exist presently, but which may affect the organisation in the future. Thus, rather wait until the organisation is faced with the problem, conceptualisation tends to be proactive rather than reactive.


Servant leaders are stewards of the organisation, where they act as the trustees. In essence, apart from focusing their efforts and energies on the followers, they equally concern themselves with the organisation as a whole. The relationship that their organisation holds with the entire society is critical in determining their success as leaders (Greenleaf, 1996).

Charismatic and Transformational Leadership Theory


Leadership is a divinely inspired gift. This is mainly considered to be true because the form of influence that a leader needs to exert over his followers need not be based on formal or traditional authority.

Instead, a leader needs to be perceived by his followers as possessing exceptional qualities that would in turn enable easy attainment of targets, goals and objectives (McLaurin & Al Amri, 2008). Charismatic leaders are usually discernible during social crises times where they offer radical vision, while convincing others to achieve the solutions in order to solve the crisis.

The most critical aspect of charismatic leaders is convincing the followers to have the same belief and conviction as the leader. This is only achievable if the leaders can embrace the vision of the team or organization passionately (McLaurin & Al Amri, 2008).

Transforming leadership

Leadership is about engaging the followers’ moral values and raising the awareness and consciousness concerning ethical issues (McLaurin & Al Amri, 2008). A leader must be in a position to mobilise the energies of his followers, including their resources, for purposes of changing the institution’s course.

Traits and Behaviours of Charismatic Leaders

Charismatic leaders are associated with specific traits and behaviour that help their followers consider them as indeed being charismatic. This is important because without the followers noticing these traits and behaviour, it may not be easy for them to submit themselves under the leader’s influence.

Unique vision

Charismatic leaders must hold a different vision from the way in which things are being done currently. It is critical to point out, however, that the difference is not too elaborate to be considered radical. Charismatic leaders are unlikely to advocate for status quo. Moreover, charismatic leaders are more likely to champion for the betterment of things in an organization.


Charisma is associated with being unconventional, where the leader introduces new ways of attaining the mission of the organisation. It is out of these unconventional ways and practices that innovation is achieved (Bodla & Nawaz, 2010).


Leaders have to take personal risk in their operation in order to enhance their probability of achieving the vision of the organisation. Self-sacrifices include being ready to forfeit one’s status, money, membership to a certain organization or group, or even leadership position to increase the chances of achieving given objectives (Mannarelli, 2006).


As they make decisions concerning the running of the organisation, charismatic leaders must show great levels of confidence in order to reassure their followers that whatever they are doing is for the interest of the group. It increases the chances that the leader will get the full support of his followers, which in turn increases goal realisation.


Followers of a charismatic leader develop a stronger belief in him if he uses persuasive appeals instead of authority to motivate the followers (Bodla & Nawaz, 2010). Thus, a leader of charisma does not need to rely heavily on consensus-seeking participative kind of decision-making process.

Comparison between Servant and Ethical Leadership and Charismatic and Transformational Leadership

Servant leadership mainly believes in service to others. The individual leader does not really take precedence in as far as the whole issue of leadership is concerned. Rather, the idea is on moving the entire organisation forward, towards achieving its intended objectives.

When positive results are achieved by such an organisation, the entire organisation receives accolade, and not only the leader. Charismatic and transformational leadership, on the other hand, focuses more on the leader as an individual. The leader is looked at as the major player, while the followers more of only pass as contributors the main effort (Chansler, 2005).

Both servant leadership and charismatic leadership theories, however, agree to the fact that leadership revolves around specific behaviours and characteristics that must be exhibited by the leader.

These characteristics and behaviours include self-confidence, cognitive ability, and the power to persuade and motivate followers. Being visionary is also a critical aspect because the organisation seeks to achieve greatness going forward.

Example of Trait Theory Leader

Abraham Lincoln

Former US President Abraham Lincoln exhibits the true characteristics of a leader who worked as a servant for his followers in seeking to attain the intended objectives of the American nation. Lincoln used the American Civil War to express his service as a leader to the American people, through freeing slaves.

His intentions and commitments were to serve most Americans for their greater good. His efforts revolutionised the country and latter day generations continue to enjoy the benefits of his sacrifices.

As he sought to become America’s President, Lincoln did not seek to achieve power and only enjoy the advantages that come with it. Instead, his aspirations were to use the Presidency only as a position serving the rest of America, and particularly save the minority communities that suffered from neglect.

Lincoln observed that without occupying a position of power, he would not really succeed in his quest. Thus, he fought hard to get power and use the same power not to benefit himself but rather to act as a servant to the downtrodden in society.

From Lincoln’s struggles, it is possible to establish the fact that he empathised with his followers, and put himself in their position in order to understand better the need to cause a revolution. He equally listened to others, and persuaded them to join in his efforts towards changing the society for the good of all Americans.

Example of Charismatic and Transformational Leaders

Steve Jobs

The late Steve Jobs is globally renowned for his unique vision and contribution that are still felt throughout the world today (Harvey, 2001). As an IT specialist and manager, Steve Jobs catapulted Apple Inc. into becoming the greatest technology company in the world. His unique vision resulted in the innovation of handheld browsing experience, which virtually all mobile phone manufacturers incorporate in their models today.

Jobs was conventional in his leadership style. This ended up creating great innovation in the company he led. Workers at the firm submitted themselves to Job’s leadership ideas, and their great teamwork enabled Apple Inc. to grow tremendous resource and establish itself as a major global company (Taylor, 2011).

Jobs’ ideas in IT have completely transformed the world as the highly dynamic IT sector continues to build on the tempo that he set (Berglas, 1999).


Servant and ethical leadership is founded on the desire for the leader to serve others. The leader acts as a steward of his followers in the pursuit for success in an organization. In addition, servant and ethical leadership approaches leadership in a holistic manner. The leader also shares power with his subordinates, including partnering with his followers in decision-making.

Servant leaders listen, empathize, persuade, and offer healing to their followers as need may arise. These are characteristics that were highly portrayed in Abraham Lincoln. Charismatic and transformational leadership, on the other hand, argues that leaders are made and must possess some high level convincing ability in order to absolutely win over their followers.

Charismatic leaders need to have vision, self-confidence, and be unconventional in their leadership in order to convince followers fully toward achieving targets and objectives. Steve Jobs portrayed charisma in his leadership role at Apple Inc.


Berglas, S. (1999). What you can learn from Steve Jobs. Inc, 10, 29-32.

Bodla, M. A., & Nawaz, M. M. (2010). Transformational leadership style and its relationship with satisfaction. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 2(1), 370-81

Chansler, P. (2005). Individual and group level traits associated with leadership. Ann Arbor, NY: Auburn University

Cramm, S. D. (2007). Evaluating the relationship between the level of leaders’ trait hope, the level of followers’ state hope, and the positive outcomes of groups: a case study of United States Community of Christ Congregations. Ann Arbor, NY: Capella University.

Greenleaf, R. (1996). On becoming a servant-leader. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass Publishers.

Harvey, A. (2001). A dramaturgical analysis of charismatic leader discourse. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 14(3), 253-65

Maguire, T. (2012). 4 leadership traits. Canadian HR Reporter, 25(20), 11-11.

Mannarelli, T. (2006). Accounting for leadership: Charismatic, transformational leadership through reflection and self-awareness. Accountancy Ireland, 38(6), 46-48.

Marques, J. (2007). On impassioned leadership: a comparison between leaders from divergent walks of life. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 33(1), 1554-3145.

McLaurin, J. R., & Al Amri., M. B. (2008). Developing an understanding of charismatic and transformational leadership. Allied Academies International Conference Academy of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict Proceedings, 13(2), 15-19.

Russell, R. (2001). The role of values in servant leadership. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 22(2), 76-83.

Sarkus, D. (1996). Servant-leadership in safety: advancing the cause and practice. Professional Safety, 41, 26-32.

Taylor, T. (2011). Apple without a core. Report on Business Magazine, 12, 10-10.

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