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Greenleaf's the Servant Leader

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February 5, 2004

Greenleaf's The Servant Leader

The Servant Leader discusses the importance of leaders who adopt a service oriented attitude in which they care for the needs of others before their own. A servant leader need not be an actual servant or have ever been a servant to become a servant leader. Rather, a servant leader is born with or adopts an "others first" disposition. Climbing through the ranks may help to create a servant leader, though it is not necessary. When leaders choose to see that the needs of their followers or their organizations are the highest priority they become servants.

The importance of servant leadership should not be underestimated and it can be simplified and embodied in one timeless phrase: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When applied to leadership the result can be phenomenal. Those who wish to serve do so with their hearts, it is not forced nor is it with resentment. The servant leader serves out of acceptance and ownership of their ability and duty.

Several traits and abilities contribute to the making of the servant leader and are discussed with equal importance in the essay. However there are some that seem to stand out more than others, not only as advice to leaders but also as advice in living a high quality life.

In the discussion of Language and Imagination beginning on page 11, Greenleaf explains that there is a limitation to communication in the sense that the listener can not see the exact picture in the mind of the speaker. This is due in large part to the fact that the listener does not have the same set of experiences to attach the communication to. The successful leader guides the listener in the direction of being able to bridge the gap and come to their own understanding.

With communication being at the basis of not only leadership, but our very existence, it seems appropriate that excellent communication skills be highly valued. The servant leader realizes that "nothing is meaningful until it is related to the hearer's own experience" (11). Finding the point between saying to little or too much depends on the leader and their honest desire to serve and communicate to their followers. In a way, the servant leader reads his or her audience and adjusts accordingly.

Under the heading Know the Unknowable Ð'- Beyond Conscious Rationality is a discussion of creativity. Leadership ". . . imposes some intellectual demands that are not measured by academic intelligence ratings" (14). The success of a leader is not determined solely on their intellect. While education certainly contributes, it is not a guarantee. What leaders need to know goes beyond what can be taught in a classroom or read in a book. The servant leader relies on intuition creativity. One of my favorite quotations appears in this section: "Others will depend on him to go out ahead and show the way because his judgment will be better than most. Leaders, therefore, must be more



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