Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Servant Leadership (Part II)

Investigating the perceptions, applications, and knowledge of servant-leadership allows for opportunities to not only validate and confirm the concept but it also allows for a critical analysis based on reality and not just theory. Seeking out other leaders to not only help further define and understand servant-leadership but to critique and ask deeper questions is a process that can only benefit the individual seeking more knowledge on the subject.

I was able to interview an individual I saw as a strong leader who also embodied many servant leadership characteristics. The intent of the interview was to investigate ideas and concepts of servant-leadership and compare them from a more theoretical perspective to actual circumstances and situations to better understand the dynamics of this leadership style. The individual I interviewed was David - teacher, principal, coach.

Servant-leadership is so much more than simply a management tool. Being a servant-leader is a lifestyle and a world view. Without having ever specifically discussed the concept of servant-leadership with David prior to my request to interview him I was very confident that he was aware of the philosophy either directly or indirectly. I mention indirectly because if he had not formally been introduced to the works of Robert Greenleaf and others I knew he held similar values, was morally conscious in both personal and professional matters, and was successful but very humble.

Among other questions and ideas (which will be explored further at a later date) our discussion surrounded around the idea that servant-leaders lived more balanced lives in terms of incorporating and balancing facets of their lives such as personal or family, professional or business, and faith or spirituality. I was most looking forward to this area of the interview and I was not disappointed as this solicited the most conversation. To summarize briefly a conclusion was reached that typically individuals who embody the leadership characteristics of a servant-leader are more likely to have personality characteristics that also dictate how they live their daily lives. We discussed that though each person and each situation are different it is most likely the case that servant-leaders are more apt to have balanced lives as they are conscious not only of their behaviors but they are also able to see their lives in a larger context and incorporate the needs of others at the same time as assessing their own. In this way we agreed that leaders capturing servant-leadership characteristics were better suited for more balanced and healthy personal, social, and professional lives.

When discussing how one learns and further understands servant-leadership David responded that seeing a servant-leader in action and having someone to be an example is invaluable. He also said that being led by morality and ethics is something that either comes naturally or is something that one must be conscious of at all times in order to make decisions. Regardless, holding a servant-leader world view is crucial to comprehending the complexities of the philosophy and is much more beneficial than simply theorizing about it.

I encourage you all to not only look inward at your leadership style and characteristics but to actively seek out leaders whom embody servant leader values and tendencies. No leader is perfect of course but it is typically evident that those who are conscious of their leadership and the subsequent impact on others are mindful of their actions. Are they truly a servant leader? I'm optimistic (though not naive) to think that there are servant leaders in all of us - we need to help one another discover the power of service as a leader and in doing so can create strong relationships, strong and balanced work places, and balanced  lifestyles. Understanding servant-leadership and learning about the concept is important but actually experiencing it is crucial to fully comprehend and embrace the practice. 

Does anyone have any servant leadership examples they can share?

Mike

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