Art And Culture

Servant Leadership: How To Put Your People Before Yourself

Servant leaders are those who turn the organizational chart upside down, putting the customers at the top. For instance, scholars argue that the great leader is seen as a servant first, and that simple fact is the key to his or her greatness. The advantages of the servant leadership model are its altruism, simplicity, and self-awareness. It emphasizes the moral sense of concern for others, reducing the complexity engendered by putting personal desires in conflict with those of followers. Servant leadership can be clearly seen as rooted in the clerical leadership perspective in that Christ’s leadership when scholars say that the words “service,” “to serve” and “servant” occur over 1300 times in the revised version of the St. James bible. For example, Jesus once said:

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to place his life as a ransom for many.”

The servant leadership model highlights Jesus as an ultimate example of a servant leader, and suggests applying the leadership insights that Jesus gives us within organizations. According to the model, only service to others, is the pathway to real significance. Scholars concentrate on the characteristics of a servant leader, and recommend ten fundamental characteristics:

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Healing
  4. Awareness
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualization
  7. Foresight
  8. Stewardship
  9. Commitment to the growth of people, and;
  10. Building community.

Servant leadership model has not, however, evaded the criticism by scholars that normally are associated with leadership models and theories. This model has been challenged for a lack of adequate empirical studies to substantiate its academic rigor and is often shelved as a learning tool as opposed to a leadership application. An example to this scholarly debate, servant leadership is systematically undefined and lacking in empirical support necessary for managerial implementation. The existing literature on servant leadership is filled with anecdotal evidence and that empirical research is critically needed to substantial the use of it in the boardroom of large corporations. Therefore, to fill this gap, I suggest that scholars take these ideas and continue to conduct research using executives as the focal point so that academic scholarship can meet the needs of managerial implications at the higher echelons of organizations worldwide. Thus, this, taken at face value, all leaders should serve their organization and its people to provide the customer and shareholder with the best possible service and the practicality of the model indicates that servant leadership can represent a complete answer to need for leadership in today’s global market environment.

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Mostafa Sayyadi
Mostafa Sayyadi, CAHRI, AFAIM, CPMgr, works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders.


Mostafa Sayyadi is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.