Grand Canyon University
MGT 420 – Org. Behavior & Management
October 17, 2011
Although the notion of servant leadership has been recognized in leadership literature since Burns' (1978) and Greenleaf's (1977) publications, the movement has gained momentum only recently. Bowman (1997) argues that to date there is only anecdotal evidence to support a commitment to an understanding of servant leadership. For example, Spears' (1995) identification of ten characteristics of servant leadership (i.e. listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community) is based solely on his readings of Greenleaf's essays, and is not grounded in solid research studies. This paper will attempt to examine the philosophical foundation of servant leadership by extracting several value-laden principles drawn from Greenleaf's and Jesus Christ's representation of the concept. This will be accomplished by responding to the following questions: a) "Although servant leadership is often associated with the Bible and Jesus Christ, it is totally compatible with most religions and theories of philosophy". Using any two religions or philosophies, explain whether you agree or disagree with the statement above by applying Greenleaf's characteristics of servant leadership as the criteria for your evaluation. b) Describe one attribute or capacity of servant leadership, and provide a practical example of when you have seen a leader demonstrate that capacity. Describe the impact the leader's behavior had on the situation; and c) Explain the importance of self-awareness and emotional intelligence and the role they play in enabling you as a leader to model the capacities of characteristics of servant leadership. I agree that Greenleaf’s definition of servant leadership is directly associated with the concept of charismatic leadership, which is located in the Bible, and is totally compatible with most religions and theories of philosophy in light of the principles and values that are present. Why? Servant leadership shares common biblical roots. The notion of servant leadership originates in the Bible. The earliest and most significant study was conducted by sociologist Max Weber (1947). Weber (1947:48) in his seminal book The Theory of Social and Economic Organization as "a quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he [the leader] is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional qualities." This definition, as Bass rightly states (1999), borrows much from the biblical notion of charisma as being endowed with the gift of divine grace. In fact, Weber develops his definition based on the use of the word `charisma' in the Bible (i.e. Paul's epistles to the Romans and Corinthians) and, primarily, in religious organizations (i.e. churches) where it is used as a basis of legitimacy for various functional roles and figureheads. In the Bible, unlike the now world’s self-reliant and self-seeking strong natural leaders, God’s leaders were servants, stewards, and shepherds. And as they faithfully pursued their high calling, God commended His people to them: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. . . . Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you (Heb. 13:7, 17). According to Greenleaf (1977), servant leaders are leaders who put other people's needs, aspirations and interests above their own. The servant leader's deliberate choice is to serve others. In fact, the servant leader's chief motive is to serve first, as opposed to lead (Greenleaf, 1977). Furthermore, servant leaders seek to transform their...