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Servant Leadership Term Paper

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Updated: Jan 14th, 2020

Introduction

This paper is based on the topic of servant leadership. It highlights the history of the concept, the various definitions of the concept by different authors and how the concept bridges with management. Servant leadership fits in management by helping managers fully understand the issues which affect their employees.

Through servant leadership, managers are able to cultivate a cohesive organizational culture which holds the organization together as one people. Key scholars who have defined the concept include Robert Greenleaf, Larry Spears and John Schermerhorn.

It will be argued that servant leadership is indispensable especially for those organizations which aspire to realize their mission and vision in an effective and efficient manner. Also discussed are the characteristics of servant leadership as well as its shortcomings.

Definition of Leadership

Leadership is defined as the ability of a person to influence other people to do things which they would not have done without the influence. People with this ability are referred to as leaders and can be found in different contexts.

In the context of organizations, leading entails the leader consolidating the efforts and resources of the organization and focusing on the future by setting up a vision for the organization which it intends to achieve in a given period of time using the consolidated efforts and resources.

Leading constitutes building and sustaining teamwork, strategic thinking, managing conflicts, coaching, inspiring a shared vision, problem solving, performance management and accountability, decision making, delegation, systems thinking, leading change, dealing with ambiguities, developing trust, employee development, customer service, innovation and creativity, emotional intelligence, servant leadership, quality and productivity improvement.

Definitions of Servant Leadership

According to Robert Greenleaf and Larry Spears, servant leadership involves a leadership derived from the passion to serve rather than to lead. With this definition, serving others precedes leading them (Greenleaf and Larry 123).

On his part, Larry Spears defined servant leadership in terms of four elements namely power sharing in decision making, a holistic approach to work, service to others and cultivation of a sense of community (Spears 4).

This definition portrays a servant leader as one who does not keep things to himself or herself but one who applies efforts to reach others so as to have all people get involved in making decisions which affect them.

According to John Schermerhorn, servant leadership is based on the commitment to serve others and the passion to help others realize, develop and use their talents as they work in organizations which benefit the society as a whole (Schermerhorn 315).

History of Servant Leadership

The concept of servant leadership was developed by Robert Greenleaf in 1970. According to him, servant leadership was based on the philosophy that for leaders to be effective, they must have the passion to serve others. He was disturbed by the many instances where leaders wanted to lead or become leaders first so as to serve people.

His argument was that if people and organizations were to put service first, they were able to transform the world and make it a better place to live.

He argued that servant leadership was the key to the realization of a world with justice; a world where people were not driven by their self interests but the desire and passion to stand for those who are oppressed and those who are not able to articulate their feelings in a highly competitive and biased world.

Kurt Lewin outlined three broad categories of leadership namely autocratic, democratic and laissez-faire. These types of leadership are distinguished by the characteristics of the leaders and the techniques they use in their leadership.

The autocratic type of leadership is characterized by failure to share power with others. In an organizational context, autocratic leaders are the sole decision makers and they perceive the other employees simply as objects which are not capable of making any decision.

Democratic leadership is the opposite of autocratic leadership. This leadership is sometimes referred to as participative leadership because the leaders lead through bringing everybody on board in decision making with the idea that inclusiveness brings about sustainability as far as realization of organizational goals and objectives is concerned. With this style, all members of the team are involved in identifying essential goals and strategies for attaining those goals.

Servant leadership falls under the category of democratic leadership which is characterized by the inclusion of everybody in making decisions which affect their work and their organizations at large.

The laissez-faire type of leadership is actually not leadership at all because people just do as they wish. This type of leadership lacks a central authority responsible for making decisions. It is rare to find organizations with this type of leadership today.

Characteristics of Servant Leadership

One of the defining characteristic of servant leadership is the ability of the leaders to listen to their followers. What is more valuable to the servant leaders is listening not talking to others. They pay close attention to what their followers have to say. They then think how their followers can be assisted to realize their full potential at the work place. Listening makes the leaders bond with their followers which enhance teamwork in organizations (DelHousaye and Robert 25).

After listening to employees, servant leaders try to put themselves in the shoes of the employees. This enables them to accurately understand the issues affecting their employees and what can be done to solve them.

Servant leaders are fully aware of their strengths, weaknesses, biases, feelings and values. This awareness enables them to serve their followers effectively. The leaders can capitalize on their strengths to bring everybody on board in decision making. They are also able to work on their weaknesses and biases so that they do not affect their ability to serve their followers.

Servant leadership is also about the leaders having a foresight. The foresight enables servant leaders to understand through intuition where the organization has come from, where it is and where it wants to be in the future and how to get there.

Servant leaders are able to persuade and appeal to their followers. The ability to persuade and appeal to the followers makes the leaders very influential. The ability to influence followers is very crucial especially in the implementation of organizational change.

Through the influence, the leaders are able to convince their followers to accept the change and therefore, organizational change is implemented with little or no resistance from the employees.

Servant leaders also have high degrees of commitment to the growth and development of people and organizations. They are ever focused on the enhancement of employees’ skills as well as development of their organizations. Servant leaders are also committed to the establishment of communities of people within organizations which enhances cohesiveness within organizations.

Under the servant leadership philosophy, all members of organizations are involved in identifying organizational goals and development procedures for reaching those goals. The role of the servant leader is to facilitate the attainment of organizational goals.

In organizations with servant leadership, employees are able to give their suggestions freely and are involved in decision making. Morale, capacity and relationship between the leaders and employees are greatly improved.

Servant leadership enhances teamwork and employees’ performance thus creating a productive work environment. If servant leadership is adopted by leaders, employees are likely to use their skills and capabilities to their fullest (Neuschel 37).

As mentioned above, servant leaders have a great influence on their followers. The leaders are capable of directly inspiring the employees to become motivated and focused on realization of good results. The influence of the servant leaders makes employees to become agents of change in their organizations.

Servant oriented leaders have an exceptional ability to create and sustain a cohesive organizational culture. A cohesive organizational culture is one in which all members of an organization hold to similar beliefs and values which bring them together as an organization.

In cohesive organizational culture, it does not matter the organizational structure but what matters is the commitment of each and every member of the organization to the organizational beliefs and values.

Servant leadership leads to establishment of teams which work together.These teams give themselves a social identity which holds them together. The social identity leads to cooperation among the team members in all aspects which brings forth a multiplicity of ideas about how to undertake the tasks thus leading to innovation in organizations (Trompenaars and Ed 63).

Servant leadership leads to increased productivity because the employees are committed to the success of their organizations and to them; motivation comes as a result of organizational success not individual success. Every employee therefore brings his or her ideas in the organization. These ideas are combined and transformed into new ways of doing things in a more efficient and effective manner.

However, servant leadership has some shortcomings. One of them is that if not properly managed, it can lead to job dissatisfaction because it gives the employees more say in decision making by allowing them to make decisions on matters affecting their work. Such freedom can make the employees overwhelmed leading to confusion and ambiguity due to lack of a firm central authority.

If not properly managed, it can also lead to poor employee performance and increased turnover. The lack of a firm central authority for decision making may create confusion in the work place leading to low performance and increased turnover. It can also lead to duplication of duties or even failure to perform some tasks due to ambiguity and confusion.

How Servant Leadership Bridges with Management

Servant leadership is a philosophy of management but not really a style of leadership. The philosophy has been applied in many areas such as management, education, administration and in religion. In management, servant leadership enables managers to become more effective in their capacities. It also enables them to be more acceptable by their followers.

Servant leadership transforms managers into leaders thus creating what is known as management leadership which is very rare in organizations. Having managers who are leaders is very crucial for organizations which aspire to attain their goals and objectives.

The reason is that management leadership goes the extra mile to focus not only on the tasks to be performed but how they are supposed to be performed and what can be done to enhance the performance of those tasks (Blanchard and Phil 82).

Management is the art of getting things done through people. Many organizations have policies, procedures and guidelines that govern the decision making process. The manager must understand how to get people do what they are supposed to do as well as know what exactly gets done, the results to be achieved and how best the results can be achieved in an efficient manner.

For managers to effectively get employees do the right thing at the right time and in the right manner, they must be appealing to them. It should not be a matter of commanding employees on what to do or simply giving out instructions in form of job descriptions.

For managers to be able to attain their organizational objectives effectively and efficiently, they must be ready to serve their employees so that the employees can serve the organizations. They must understand that employees are social beings who have social, psychological and emotional needs.

They should also understand that employees do not work only for financial gains but also wish to get the intrinsic value of work. In this regard, servant leadership can help managers bond with their employees and view the tasks as a collective responsibility not as segmentation of jobs for various individuals. In other words, the managers must learn how to manage or lead from the front.

Management involves making decisions such as hiring and firing, adopting new market strategies and new human resource policies. A manager therefore should be a person who exercises authority and leadership over other people.

In organizations, people are seen as a resource that is relatively flexible and easy to control for organizational gain. Human resource management therefore centers on articulating the needs and aspirations of the workers and meeting their needs, giving them challenges and helping them towards self actualization.

The articulation of the needs of the workers is only possible if managers embrace servant leadership which can help them develop organizational core values centered on respect of employees.

The management functions include planning, organizing, selection or staffing, directing, controlling or coordination, recruitment, budgeting and reporting. For the human resource manager, planning means the determination of a human resource program that would contribute to the goals established for the organization.

To do this, the manager must focus on the economic, social and political environments in which the organization operates. He or she must also establish the resources needed to make the plans work.

Servant leadership aids the planning aspect by ensuring that all stakeholders are involved in the planning of all activities of an organization. Since servant leadership is all about serving others and not concentrating power on oneself, servant leaders usually organize a stakeholders meeting or workshop during which they agree on what to be done, by who, where, when and why.

During the stakeholders meeting, a work plan can be developed by members of the organization or a department in the case of big organizations. The involvement of all stakeholders in the planning of activities increases organizational efficiency because everybody is made aware of what to do.

In other words, the stakeholders own the plan of their organization. The involvement also increases employee motivation because they understand that they are valued by the management and thus utilize their potential in executing those tasks included in the work schedule.

The directing aspect of management is the actual doing of work. It is done by finding appropriate ways of motivating or getting people do their work willingly and effectively. The manager must provide directions to the staff and also help them through effective explaination and communication of what is expected of each and every one of them.

Servant leadership aids the directing aspect by ensuring that all employees are assisted to understand their roles, responsibilities and how to undertake them. The servant leader does not simply give instructions and sit down to wait for results but he or she goes the extra mile to ensure that all employees are assisted to overcome their challenges in their lines of duty.

The servant leader is always available to offer social, psychological, emotional and technical support to the employees. As a result, managers using servant leadership philosophy have been described as applying hands on approach in their management.

After controlling, the manager determines how well jobs have been done and what progress has been made towards attaining the set goals. He or she must know what is happening and make the necessary changes to ensure the attainment of the set goals and objectives (Sipe and Don 35).

Servant leadership enables managers to carry out employee appraisals in a manner which is all inclusive and not offensive to the employees.

The servant leader makes the employees fully understand why they are appraised, the results of the appraisal and what they stand to gain or lose from the appraisal. The servant leader also ensures that the appraisal of employees leaves the organization more united than divided.

After the appraisals, the servant leader must ensure that all employees are rewarded accordingly. Those who are found to be performing poorly should not be condemned but they should rather be assisted to overcome the challenges which make them perform poorly.

Conclusion

Servant leadership is based on the passion to serve others not to lead them. Servant leaders therefore put service first before everything else. They are empathetic, persuasive, influential and committed to building communities of people wherever they work. They also have the ability to listen to others effectively.

Servant leadership bridges with management in that it helps organizations have what is referred to as management leadership, which is very important for the attainment of organizational goals and objectives. Servant leadership is people based. The servant leader aspires to help others realize and utilize their potential to their fullest.

He or she is not driven by the desire to command others but rather by the passion to see everyone assisted to achieve what he or she wishes to achieve.

Organizations with servant leadership also have a cohesive organizational culture which is very crucial for the stability of organizations. However, if not properly managed, servant leadership has the potential of slowing organizational progress due to lack of a firm center of power for decision making.

Works Cited

Blanchard, Kenneth, and Phil, Hodges. The Servant Leader: Transforming Your Heart, Head, Hands, & Habits, Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman, 2003. Print.

DelHousaye, Darryl, and Robert, Brewer. Servant Leadership: Seven Distinctive Characteristics, Scottsdale, Ariz.: Scottsdale Bible Church Press, 2004. Print.

Greenleaf, Robert, and Larry, Spears. The Power of Servant-Leadership: Essays, San Francisco, Calif.: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1998. Print.

Neuschel , Robert. The Servant Leader: Unleashing the Power of Your People, Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2005.Print.

Schermerhorn, John. Management, Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2010. Print.

Sipe , James, and Don , Frick. Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership: Practicing the Wisdom of Leading by Serving, New York: Paulist Press, 2009. Print.

Spears, Larry. Focus on Leadership: Servant-Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2001. Print.

Trompenaars, Fons, and Ed, Voerman. Servant Leadership across Cultures: Harnessing the Strength of the World’s Most Powerful Leadership Philosophy, Oxford: Infinite Ideas Ltd., 2009. Print.

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