Servant leadership is both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid. ” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.
While servant leadership is a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970.
In that essay, Greenleaf said: “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.
” “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. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived? “ Advantages •This concept is seen as a long-term concept to live and work and therefore has the potential to influence the society in a positive way.
•The exemplary treatment of employees leads to an excellent treatment of customers by employees of the company and a high loyalty of the customers. •There is a high employee identification with the enterprise. •An excellent corporate culture is developed. •Leaders of a company define themselves by their significance to the people. •Servant Leadership can be used as a principle to improve the return on investment of staff, in all economic sectors. Managers who empower and respect their staff get better performance in return. Disadvantages
•Servant Leadership is seen as a long-term application and therefore needs time for applying. •Lack of authority: Servant leadership can actually lead to a minimization of the authority of the subject manager and the overall management function in the business. When employees see their manager catering to their needs in an extreme manner, they are less likely to view him as an authoritative figure. If top management wants front-line mangers to push employees to better performance, it is difficult for the servant manager to step back into this role as a more dominant figure.
•Demotivating: Servant leadership may lead to demotivation of employees, who then produce fewer results over time. It is comparable to a parent-child relationship in which the parent bails the child out of trouble by constantly stepping into to fix things or to do the work for the child. When employees believe their manager will step in to take care of any needs they have or to resolve issues that arise, they are more tempted to sit back and exert less effort in producing quality and put less thought into resolving issues or conflicts.
•Limited vision: Leaders at all levels of a business are distinct from regular employees by their role of developing vision and providing direction. A manager needs to have some level of detachment from his employees so he can explore new opportunities, brainstorm ideas, resolve problems and formulate a picture on where his department, store or business is headed. Only by having this separation from employees can managers focus on vision and then step in to articulate the vision by providing direction to employees.