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The Elements of Servant Leadership

Broadly speaking, there are two leadership styles, e.g., Transactional and Transformational styles, where the transactional leaders provide followers with something they want in return for something (Hay, 2007), which is more or less based on the ‘give and take’ principle.

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However, some researchers opine that it “seeks to maintain stability rather than promoting change within an organization through regular economic and social exchanges that achieve specific goals for both the leaders and their followers” (Lussier & Achua, 2004).

On the other hand, transformational leadership wants to “transform” the followers towards a desired direction, and thus goes beyond the transactional style. This style is based on ethics and sets long-term goals (Northouse, 1997). According to Covey, “the goal of transformational leadership is to ‘transform’ people and organizations in a literal sense – to change them in mind and heart; enlarge vision, insight, and understanding; clarify purposes; make behavior congruent with beliefs, principles, or values; and bring about changes that are permanent, self-perpetuating, and momentum building” (Covey, 1990).

Both of the leadership styles have their refined avatars, as transactional style has LMX (Leader-Member Exchange) Theory that suggests about creating a group of close followers, and transformational style has servant leadership model, which aims to produce selfless service. Its originator, Robert Greenleaf coined the phrase “Servant-Leadership” while formulating its mechanism around 1970s.

This style proposes to lead with a prophetic sensibility, while possessing “a sense for the unknowable”, an ability to “foresee the unforeseeable” and would be “thinking like a scientist, an artist, or a poet” (Greenleaf, 1977). This leadership model has earned the preference of Covey, who emphatically explained the current global situation and the role of servant-leadership in it, where he says, “A great movement is taking place throughout the world today. Its roots, I believe, are to be found in two powerful forces.

One is the dramatic globalization of markets and technology. And in a very pragmatic way, this tidal wave of change is fueling the impact of the second force: timeless, universal principles that have governed, and always will govern, all enduring success, especially those principles that give ‘air’ and ‘life’ and creative power to the human spirit that produces value in markets, organizations, families, and, most significantly, individual’s lives” (Covey, 1992)

Covey’s words carry the essence of the modern times, where the old concept of “earning more with less” is gradually fading out, as it is evident from the current business trend, where the concept of “providing more for less” is rapidly gaining its ground. The companies are now giving away computers, printers or mobiles for free to earn business from broadband, printing or mobile call charges.