Servant-Leadership is rapidly becoming a popularized term and a popular concept to bandy about in many circles.
This is the book that started that trend.
Published originally in 1977, it contains articles and concepts that found their germination in the turbulant decade of the 1960's. While you might imagine from the term "Servant-Leader" that the ideology of this book stems from religious conviction and it certainly does include that, you may be surprised to read in the first chapter of the book that it finds its inspiration in literature. Specifically, the Servant-Leader who captured Greenleaf's imagination and catalyzed the writing of this book was the fictional character Leo in Herman Hesse's "Journey to the East."
More surprises remain in store throughout this book that challenges concepts seemingly ingrained in human nature and counter-intuitively argues for several revolutionary premises, not simply on the basis of morality, but rather effectiveness and societal need.
In particular, Greenleaf argues that the advent of big business, large institutions, and corporate growth requires a paradigm shift in the view of leadership. Contrary to the anti-authoritarianism so ingrained in the 60's, Greenleaf argues that large organizations hold tremendous promise to accomplish correspondingly large results. What is needed are leaders who will embrace the organizations and see them almost as separate entities, living organisms as it were, love them, care for them and serve the population within and without through them.
The qualities that Greenleaf profers as indicative of such growth and service are:
1. Do those served grow as persons?
2. Do they, while being served become healthier wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?
3. What is the effect on the least privileged in society?
4. Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived? (Greenleaf 1977/2002 p.27)
In practical terms Greenleaf argues strongly for such Servant-Leaders to rise up and shake off the traditional trappings of leadership within archaic and dusty organizations and equally archaic leadership models, where the emphasis has been upon elevating managers to de facto leaders of these institutions and instead, elevating Trustee's and Board Chairpersons to reject passivity, reject the role of a rubber stamp and exert leadership that embraces values, takes risks and empowers people.
It is a clarion call to activist leadership that feels very much a derivitive of the 60's altruism, yet rejects the across the board discarding of all institutions as irretrievably corrupt and inherently in need of dismantling.
The influence of this concept and the leadership institutions that are adopting the model in their training and operations is remarkably going beyond its author who passed away in 1990.
This book should be a welcome addition to the leadership library of every student and participant in the leadership melieu. Whether you accept and adopt the premises contained, there is wisdom and insight for all who wish to read. Answers in some context are given, but more importantly, tools are provided with which to frame the question for those moving forward.
I highly recommend this book as an indispensible tool for understanding the leadership issues and needs of this generation.