The phrase “servant leadership” is frequently used when current leadership styles (typically command-and-control) clash with an emerging culture of empowerment and self-organization. “We need our leaders to embody servant leadership” is a comment I recently heard. But what is servant leadership? Do people really know what they are asking for?
As Patrick Lencioni states “I’m tired of hearing about servant leadership…because there is not any other kind.” I would agree. For leaders looking to radically thrive in an environment of agility and to foster the culture necessary for an Agile ecosystem to work, looking to Robert Greenleaf’s seminal book establishes a life-long foundation to build your leadership legacy.
One interesting concept from Mr. Greenleaf is the notion of primus inter pares or, first among equals. This approach no longer places the leader at the top of a hierarchy but along side their peers. So, who is the leader? The one with foresight – the one with the ability to see things others can’t see – and the one who has the ability to build community. Leaders are no long chosen for their followers. Followers choose the leader. I often wonder how many people would continue to follow their current manager if they were given the choice. Something to think about…
This is just one of many principles and characteristics of a servant leader described in the book. I recently elaborated 7 of these principles to include in training materials to use while teaching and coaching servant leadership. You can download the PDF of these materials here.
Becoming a “servant leader” is a lifelong journey and this document is just the tip of the iceberg and a conversation starter. Feel free to share freely and contribute your thoughts on servant leadership below.
Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf