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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
Servant leaders differ in approach,
March 16, 2008, 2D.
is a popular term in management and organizational circles these days. Churches, schools, volunteer organizations, and
businesses of all types have jumped on the servant leadership bandwagon, but how many
actually understand the concept and appreciate how drastically different it is from
traditional models of management?
coined the term Servant Leader to describe a leadership style characterized by
serving and meeting the needs of people. He
argued that the conscious desire to serve others eventually creates a desire to lead. Individuals who seek to be servants first and then
rise to positions of leadership in organizations tend to interact with others and guide
organizations differently than people who aspire to be leaders first. Servants as leaders seek to meet the highest
priority needs and interests of their people. Servant
leaders desire for their people to grow and to
become healthier, wiser, freer,
more autonomous, and more likely themselves to become servants.
management thinking suggested that workers follow the commands and dictates of their
superiors. Superiors made decisions and
retained control over all the dimensions of the work and organization. Workers acted as the hands and feet of management,
carrying out the will of the decision-making brain. In
traditional management, organizations were viewed as machines and workers were viewed as
machine parts. When workers broke down or
gave up, management would replace them with other workers who would comply with orders and
efficiently perform their work. Power and
control resided with management; workers merely did what they were told to do.
Rather than tell,
servant leaders ask. Servant leaders ask
people about their needs and desires and ask for worker input on decisions affecting the
organization. Servant leaders treat their
followers as self-active, responsible, and intelligent people rather than mindless machine
parts. By attending to worker needs, servant
leaders free their followers from obstacles and barriers to performance and allow them to
figure out and suggest ways to improve their work. They
allow workers to take ownership in the workplace and the decisions affecting the
organization. In the process, workers develop
feelings that they are appreciated, respected, and trusted. By empowering workers and giving away authority,
servant leaders actually gain more power from their followers.
Being a servant
leader does not mean being a doormat to workers. Effective
parents serve their children while guiding them in positive directions and steering them
away from harmful or unhealthy decisions. Effective
parents allow children to grow and explore new things, but are also willing and able to
give corrective feedback when necessary. The
goal of any parent-child relationship is for the child to meet or exceed the abilities and
accomplishments of the parent. A servant
leaders relationship with followers is no different.
ideas that managers should serve and develop workers into employees who self-actively
manage and make decisions for an organization and that superiors are servants of the
followers is backwards from traditional management thinking. The success of servant leaders comes from serving
the needs of others.
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