Greenleaf (1977) implied that it would prove easier for people to display the behaviors associated with servant leadership if they already embrace the values associated with servant hood: if they have already developed an ideology, personal philosophy, and worldview that includes serving as the foundational basis. On corporate levels, I posit that this means that organizations can more easily adopt servant leadership (or, for that matter, any style of leadership that differs significantly from the one they currently employ) as the norm, similarly, if they already embrace the associated values as cultural norms.
Many organizations have seemed to have approached leader development as they have skills development for operations and maintenance. They have provided technical training that lasted days, or weeks, or in some cases, even months. In this training, they have identified the desired leadership values and they have had potential and existing leaders work through case studies, role-plays, and other exercises to show would-be leaders how they should ideally prefer to go before others, within their organizations, to show them the desired destinations and how best to reach those. Some organizations have experienced success with this, most likely because they have actually and sincerely desired the associated transformations to occur; and they already had similar types of cultures in place. (As an aside, people who take organizations at their words, when those organizations promote transformational changes, and later find that their organizations displayed a façade -- and they never really and substantially intended to make the leap, will likely feel all of the values and display all of the behaviors typically associated with similar types of betrayals of trust.) However, I also posit that technical training, alone, will not result in the desired effects, for most people, if the existing gaps between the existing cultures in the desired cultures prove too great.
Technical training has proven sufficient, and will likely continue to do so, in situations where the personal values, philosophies, and worldviews of the individuals in the training align with the values that represent the desired cultural norms of their organizations. However, if those values differ, then any significant transformation will require more than technical training or educational courses. Specifically, Massey (1979) suggested people develop most of their basic values, by the age of seven years; and it requires those people to experience significant promotional events, in order to to reshape their values. On an corporate level, Schein (1984) suggested that organizations establish collective values in answering opportunities and challenges associated with processes of internal integration and external adaptation. In other words, the members of the organizations collectively suggest, validate, and learn solutions. They then adopt those solutions and then embrace and embed the supporting values. Once they have embedded those values, they will continue to embrace them, even after the original opportunities and challenges no longer exist. Additionally, when implementing new solutions, they will tend to revert to the old values, even if they no longer apply. Therefore, when organizations desire to make changes, not only do members have to collectively appreciate the improvement offered by the required technical changes, they also have to undergo a cultural shift that requires displacing old values that they have previously proven and accepted as the correct ways to thank, feel, and behave; but they also have to replace those by embracing new values.
Greenleaf, R. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York, New York: Paulist Press.
Massey, M. (1979). The people puzzle: Understanding yourself and others. Reston, VA: Reston.
Schein, E. H. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.