Monday, December 10, 2012



Servant leadership (SL) can be a tough sell. Some theorists have suggested that incorporating SL has essentially amounted to adopting a new life style or paradigm. Therefore, it would seem that that adopting SL has "cut deeper" than merely exercising a few new leadership behaviors -- behaviors that people can switch on or off at a moment's notice, as the needs arise. Other theorists have further suggested that the fundamental attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors found in servant leaders do not differ much from those found in people who exercise transformative or transformational leadership (and recently, Level 5 leadership, thanks to Dr. Wilbur Reid) -- only the end concern for organizational outcomes (transformational) or followers (SL) differs. These and other factors may have contributed to explaining employers' reluctance to utilize SL. These employers may feel that: (a) the outcome trend of the organization doesn't justify a change in leadership style, (b) SL doesn't have enough of a track record to risk incorporating it, (c) it's just a bunch of touchy-feely human relations stuff that might work somewhere, but might not work "here," or (d) potential political ramification, pushback, etc., offer risks not clearly mitigated by the benefits associated with employing SL.

Additionally, theorists from Greenleaf on have offered lists that specify SL traits. However, it appears that most organizations desire the adoption and exhibition of thoe same traits in followers, just as much as they do in leaders (as with most traits listed in those types of leadership theories). Of those executives who desire maximum efficiency and effectiveness, which of them has not also desired for followers to serve, to exercise humility, and to work together to contribute valuable insights to the vision and mission of their organizations? Maybe Greenleaf pointed out the need for these in leaders only because he so seldom came across leaders who embraced them. If that's true, then SL theory might actually relate more to desirable human or organization-wide behaviors rather than to just leadership behaviors alone. In any case, two concepts seem to follow that question the notions of:

  • Leadership as necessarily tied to functional position. It has appeared that leadership happens at all levels, regardless of rank or station, and

  • The programmatic use of leadership. Evidence suggests that the proper use of leadership is finite and that most people, even those in "leadership" positions, only employs leadership a small percentage of any given day.


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