Servant Leadership, Not For All Companies
The past can teach business leaders many lessons and educators can help guide the leaders of tomorrow. Leadership is evolving, and institutions of higher education are creating leaders to meet the needs of the global business environment. In comparison to past leadership styles and theories which evolved from the autocratic, task, based, direct from the ivory tower leadership style to the “lead by example” leadership styles, educators can build the next generations of leaders, but first must decide which of the two new dominant theories—servant and transformational, is the best fit. Over the past three decades, academic research on leadership focused on transformational leadership and building to servant leadership. Transformational and servant leadership, highly investigated with over 200,00 articles listed on the Proquest research database from 1980 to 2014, interestingly servant leadership accounts for 130,000 of articles with over 15,000 comparing the two styles. The two are similar in their approach to management of human resources but are diametric in the approach to corporate culture. Servant leadership denoted as spiritual while transformational leadership considered empowering (Smith, Montagno, & Kuzmenko, 2004).
The purpose of this article is to establish how the style does not always fit and that servant leadership, although a revolutionary style as portrayed, may be innate in an individual and driven by spiritual influence. The spiritual portion of servant leadership can be ineffective or ineffective based on individual preference, the local culture and the type and growth of a company. For a leader to determine the appropriate environment, he/she must examine the company and business focus to determine if servant leadership will be successful, can be taught or built into the company culture.
Servant Leadership History
Robert Greenleaf introduced the theory behind servant leadership in 1977. Greenleaf, a former AT&T Director, was responsible for identification, development and training of promising managers. (Smith 2005), (Mehta, & Pillay, 2011) Greenleaf believed he could develop leaders from individuals who were servants first. The published values of servant leadership are impeccable work ethic, high moral values, social responsibility, serving others first and empowering organizations and individuals to excel beyond expectations. The first step to understanding Greenleaf’s theory requires one to break down the words. Servant, defined as “one who serves others” and leadership, defined as “the power and ability to lead others”, each could not be more contradictory to the other (merriam-webster.com). A simple explanation is that those servants who make the conscious decision become leaders understanding the roles and values with organizations (Finley, 2012). Confusing as it sounds, both Greenleaf and Finely state the successes of leaders who have“learned or evolved” have a...