30. What is servant
Servant leadership is an idea first conceived by Robert Greenleaf, and now led by a center in his name.
"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader
first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or
to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first
are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that
are part of the infinite variety of human nature."
Much has been written on servant leadership, and I encourage you to read and absorb as much of this perspective on leadership as possible.
However, I'd like to place this question in the context of my first four Assumptions about leadership.
1. Leadership is both a role and a responsibility.
2. Leadership is role specific based on position within the organizational structure.
3. Leadership is a responsibility when it is a matter of influence and impact.
4. Leadership occurs in the context of human relationships.
These ideas assume that leadership is much more than an institutional role within an organizational structure. It is not simply a set of tasks and activities that one conducts.
Leadership is much more a product of the character of an individual. The underlying assumption is that every member of an organization is in a leadership relationship with someone. Each one of us influences someone by our actions. That influence, properly understood, is leadership.
Therefore, servant leadership is a way to understand how to fulfill our leadership responsibility.
What, then, does it mean to serve first within the context of our relationships in business?
The question that rarely gets asked in this context is "Is our business structured - organized - to produce servant leadership? Or, does how we function force people into decisions and actions that encourage self-interest over against action for the greater good.
Servant leadership is not an organizational system. If it is to make a sustainable difference in your business, you must take the time to look at how you are organized to determine what policies and structures inhibit the development of this leadership practice.
How, then, do business develop servant leadership throughout their business?