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Evaluating Servant Leadership

What is servant leadership? When this question is asked, the first response that comes to mind is a leadership role in some sort of spiritual capacity.In actuality, this concept can be applied to both professional and spiritual roles of leadership.Robert K.

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Greenleaf’s theory of servant leadership includes qualities such as listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, growth and building community (Greenleaf, 2002).

Considering this description, when asked if the following statement, “although servant leadership is often associated with the Bible and Jesus Christ, it is totally compatible with most religions and theories of philosophy” can be viewed as true, it indeed can be confirmed for most. As servant leadership is actually a philosophy that emphasizes moral values and suggests leaders obtain desired results by focusing on and fulfilling the needs of others it is possible that it is compatible with other religious philosophies, though not all, as well.

The very essence of leadership is finding effective ways to inspire and motivate others. A person’s particular style of leadership is influenced by the core values as well as the assumptions and beliefs of the individual. Effective leaders continuously learn from those around them and evolve their leadership style as needed to deal with diversity and changing situations. Strong leaders typically possess a combination of positive characteristics and moral values that form and define their leadership philosophy.

Servant leadership emphasizes such skills as awareness, stewardship, persuasion, growth and building community. These skills are also important elements of most religious philosophies but specifically for the Christian and Unitarian Universalist philosophies. One Christian philosophy of leadership presented by David M. Turner, is that the characteristics of the leader should be in harmony with qualities described in Scripture (Turner, Unknown). The Christian leader should be a continual student that consistently strives for excellence, concentrates on the people, and coaches them become leaders as well.

A similar philosophy of leadership as described by Unitarian Universalists is that leaders should find balance between concerns for getting the job done and concern for the people. The focus of the leader is to support and empower the individual to discover and explore their own faith. Both of these philosophies require their leader to practice listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, growth and community in order to be effective. Perhaps the most important attribute of servant leadership is listening.

In order to fulfill the needs of others, the leader must first identify the need and the only way to do that is to listen and truly hear what is being communicated. Irving Shapiro? former chairman of DuPont, perhaps described servant leadership best with his statement that “people who accomplish things do more listening than talking” (p. 1). During meetings at large successful organizations such as Radiall, Inc. , the most effective managers will often have very little to say yet their body language alone will convey the message that they are listening and evaluating every word being spoken.

The manager may not offer suggestions at all at the initial meeting or perhaps will just ask more questions that will expand the groups thinking and possibly guide them toward their own desired result. While others have argued their point it seems as if the listening has given the leader some time to develop awareness of the needs and foresight to accomplish them. It is logical that effective servant leadership would require a higher level of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the skill level or ability to identify and manage emotions of self, others and of groups as well.

People who possess a high degree of emotional intelligence will most likely be very self-aware and also be quite attuned to the emotions of others around them. Self-awareness is needed first in order to understand and be attuned with others. As stated by Daniel Goleman, “if your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far” (Serrat, 2009).

So what is servant leadership? It is a leadership role in some sort of spiritual capacity but it is a concept that can be applied both professional and spiritual roles of leadership. Greenleaf’s theory of servant leadership that includes qualities such as listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, growth and building community (Greenleaf, 2002) encompasses qualities that are morally important but that can also be applied in professional situations.

It is true that, “although servant leadership is often associated with the Bible and Jesus Christ, it is totally compatible with most religions and theories of philosophy”. Servant leadership is a philosophy that emphasizes moral values and suggests leaders obtain desired results by focusing on and fulfilling the needs of others and is completely compatible with other religious philosophies as well.

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