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I began reading a book called, Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness by Robert Greenleaf. It’s an excellent book. It reads like the Proverbs as it is mostly a collection of essays and talks given over the course of Greenleaf’s career. Greenleaf served most of his career as a management and leadership consultant for churches, universities, and businesses. For only four years of his career he held a position that was already created, all the other positions and roles he held were created for him or by him. 

Greenleaf defines a servant leader as someone who first understands themselves and their role as servant first, and leader next. The one who leads first does so to “assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions. For such it will be a later choice to serve – after leadership is established.” The servant first has a different set of questions that that propose for each leadership endeavor and therefore a different outcome. And I am finding more and more is the truth that the questions we begin with almost fully define the outcomes we end with in our pursuits. So, ask wisely, before moving forward in the leadership endeavor.

Greenleaf puts it this way, “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 the difficult to administer, is: Do those being 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 of society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?” 

What end might our institutions (businesses, churches, government, hospitals, schools, universities) achieve if the beginning questions were these? These questions are much different than typical bottom line antics. They are much fuller questions and place value properly even within the question itself. 

If you are a leader (and you are leading something – at work, your church, your family, your children, your siblings, your friends, your own life) I challenge you to consider asking new questions about the outcomes you would like to achieve within the circles you lead. Do you want your employees to thrive and be nourished inside and outside the office? Do you want your family to flourish under your leadership? Do you want your friends and family to achieve more and become more as a result of the encouragement and life you give them? 

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