Leaders as Servants: The 10 Key Characteristics: Dynamic Effective Leadership Can Bring about Vast Positive Change. the Knowledge Wave and All Other Valuable Initiatives Will Be, or Are Already, Lost without It. (Nzim)

By Rowe, Ron | New Zealand Management, February 2003 | Go to article overview

Leaders as Servants: The 10 Key Characteristics: Dynamic Effective Leadership Can Bring about Vast Positive Change. the Knowledge Wave and All Other Valuable Initiatives Will Be, or Are Already, Lost without It. (Nzim)


Rowe, Ron, New Zealand Management


Leadership makes the difference between one organisation and another.

Effective leadership is demonstrated minute by minute in the things we do and say, every day. People see, note and feel every action, and word that we utter. Any incongruity in what they see, hear and feel dissipates trust.

Books, lectures, seminars and workshops on leadership devote their time and space to the esoteric nature of the topic. We spend too much time analysing the thousands of factors that make up effective leadership but rarely actioning those things which really do matter.

The most significant works and practice that I have been exposed to at any time in my working life is "servant leadership". Robert Greenleaf's book Servant Leadership provided me with a better appreciation of the underlying considerations and value within servant leadership.

Servant and leader.. can these two roles be fused into one real person, in all levels of status and calling? If so can that person be productive and effective in the real world of the present and the future?

Greenleaf and others believe that really good, and yes, great leaders do indeed fuse two roles into one real person, in all levels of status and calling.

Servant leadership relies primarily on building competence in relationships with people who, together with the leader, produce the results and conditions. Together they will continually reach for both personal and organisational potential.

Greenleaf in his first work wrote: "It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.

"The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant--first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served.

"Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?"

Well before reading Greenleaf's and others' work on this stunning concept, I used a phrase: "the growth that I have achieved can be measured and seen in the growth that I have been able to bring about in others ...". In the concept of servant leadership both leadership and followership are emphasised.

Leaders leading leaders ...

Servant leadership is embedded in many indigenous cultures. Anthropologists demonstrate that people who led others in tribal situations very often were the servants of the others. The cultures were holistic, cooperative, communal, intuitive, healing and spiritual and often centred on being guardians of the future and respecting ancestors who walked before.

Dr Lin Bothwell in The Art Of Leadership says: "Leadership is the most researched and studied subject in humankind." For millennia we have sought to understand what enables one person to stand out and to take people with them.

The concept of servant leadership, of leaders leading leaders can be summed up in the Latin phrase `primus inter pares'--`each is first among equals'.

Greenleaf says that leaders bend their efforts to serve with skill, understanding, and spirit, and that followers will be responsive only to able servants who lead them. Discriminating and determined followers and servants as followers are as important as servant leaders, and everyone from time to time may be in both roles ... leaders leading leaders.

If, as they say: you will never learn to do anything really well until you first have the desire to do so, we will find great difficulty in fulfilling our leadership potential until we really desire to serve others.

My experience is that organisations don't pay half enough attention to the loyalty of their members. Too often a person's patronage is taken for granted. …

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Leaders as Servants: The 10 Key Characteristics: Dynamic Effective Leadership Can Bring about Vast Positive Change. the Knowledge Wave and All Other Valuable Initiatives Will Be, or Are Already, Lost without It. (Nzim)
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