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SERVANT LEADERSHIP

The term Servant Leader was created by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970’s. The following is an introduction and adapted from the book The Servant Leader Within edited by Larry Spears.

CHARACTERISTICS OF SERVANT LEADERS

Listening
Leaders have traditionally been valued for their communication and decision making skills. These are important for the servant leader and need to be reinforced by a deep commitment to listening intently to others. The servant leader seeks to identify the will of the group and helps clarify that will. He or she seeks to listen receptively to what is said and not said to do this.
Listening also encompasses getting in touch with one’s own inner voice and seeking to understand what the mind body and spirit are communicating. Servant leaders are prepared to speak what the inner voice is saying to them. Listening combined with regular periods of reflection is essential to the growth of the servant leader so their voice comes from this place within.

Empathy
Servant leaders strive to understand and empathise with others. They accept and recognise people for their special and unique spirits. They assume the good intentions of everyone and do not reject them as people even when questioning and or refusing to accept their behaviour or performance. The most successful servant leaders are those who become skilled empathetic listeners.

Healing

Learning to heal is a powerful force for transformation and integration. One of the great strengths of servant leadership is the potential for healing oneself and others. Many people have broken spirits and have suffered from a variety of emotional hurts. Although this is part of being human, servant leaders recognise that they have the opportunity to ’make whole’ those with whom they come in contact. Greenfield says ‘ there is something subtle communicated to one who is being served and led if implicit in the contract between servant leader and the led is an understanding that the search for wholeness is something they share’

Awareness
General awareness and especially self awareness strengthens the servant leader. Making a commitment to foster awareness is scary, you never know what you may discover. Awareness also aids understanding issues that involve ethics and values. Situations can be viewed from a detached, more integrated, holistic position through awareness. Greenleaf says‘ Awareness is not a giver of solace- it is just the opposite. It is a disturber and an awakener. Able leaders are usually sharply awake and reasonably disturbed. They are not seekers after solace. They have their own inner security’.

Persuasion
Servant leaders rely on persuasion rather than using positional authority. They seek to convince others rather than coerce compliance. They talk from their passion and are willing to give full voice to their beliefs. They are effective at building consensus in groups. There is an emphasis on openness and persuasion rather than control.

Conceptualisation
Servant leaders nurture an ability to dream great dreams. To look at problems conceptually requires thought beyond the day to day. This needs discipline and practice. They need to hold the duality of ‘the day to day’ and ‘the vision’ and be able to dance between them or lead a team who can.

Foresight
Foresight is understanding the lessons from the past, the realities of the present and the likely consequences of a decision for the future. It is rooted in the intuitive mind.

Stewardship
Servant leadership assumes the commitment to serving the needs of others and the greater good of society.

Commitment to the growth of people
Servant leaders believe that people have an intrinsic value beyond their contributions as workers. They are deeply committed to the growth of each and every individual in their organisation. They do everything within their power to nurture the personal, professional and spiritual growth of employees. This is providing funds and opportunities for development in or outside the organisation. They encourage and respect people making decisions for themselves.

Building community
Servant leaders see that much has been lost in the shift from local community to big institutions and want to bring back the essence of community in the global village we now live in.

Book

The Servant Within Robert Greenleaf

The websites www.greenleaf.org and http://www.spearscenter.org/ gives more information.

Judith Mills 2009
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