As we develop into leaders, one of the things we need to know is what it means to be a servant leader. Today such examples are greatly lacking. Servant leadership is a choice by a leader to follow the example of The Jesus Christ and The Mother Teresa and lead by serving, becoming a bondservant and giving his life for others. Servant leadership is an inner attitude of the heart by which a person chooses to place himself or herself under the leadership of Jesus Christ and Mother Teresa.
Christ often invited people to follow him. Some followed and many did not. One of the things to understand is the difference between obedience and submission. A person in authority or general leader in our present society can command for obedience. Submission, on the other hand, is a choice by the follower to choose to follow a leader, and also an inner attitude of the heart can never be commanded. Some chose to submit to Christ and followed him.
Many chose not to submit to Christ and followed other religious leaders. Christ gives us the freedom to make the choice not to follow or submit. Most religious leaders out there serve the people and community first. The characteristics of a servant leadership as seen by Robert Greenleaf are “listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building the community.” (Greenleaf, 2002, p. #19-25) The first and most important characteristic of an excellent servant leader is listening.
A servant leader always listens to the concerns of his/her co-workers, staff members, or patients and tries to find the most appropriate or the best solution to a problem. Leaders have traditionally been valued for their communication and decision-making skills. Although these are also important skills for servant leaders, they need to be reinforced by a deep commitment to listen intently to others. By listening intently, servant leaders seek to identify the will of their group members and help to clarify that will.
For example, Mother Teresa had always listened to the concerns and conditions of the poor and needy people; therefore, she dedicated her life into servicing and taking care of people who needed help and fulfilled her main purpose in life by believing that, “Service to human is service to God” Listening is essential to the growth and well-being of a servant leader. Second, empathy is another important characteristic of an excellent leader. A servant leader strives to understand and empathize with others. People need to be accepted and recognized for their specialty and uniqueness. An excellent servant leader assumes the good intentions of co-workers and colleagues and does not reject them as people, even when one may be forced to accept certain behaviors. For example, Mother Teresa said that, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”
We can see Mother Teresa in her missionary work because she had established orphanages, leprosy outreach clinics, shelters for the homeless, the poor, the disabled, and the blind. Third, healing is one of the most vital characteristics of an excellent servant leader. One of the greatest strengths of servant leadership is the potential for healing one’s self and one’s relationship to others. Many people have broken spirits and suffered from a variety of emotional hurts. Although this is a part of being human, servant leaders recognize that they have an opportunity to help those with whom they come into contact. For example, Mother Teresa showed her empathy toward the diseased and hungry people by providing them with bandages, medicine, and nutritious food. Fourth, a crucial characteristic of an excellent servant leader is awareness. General awareness, especially self-awareness, strengthens servant leaders.
Awareness helps one to understand issues involving ethics, power, and values. It lends itself to being able to view most situations from a more integrated, holistic position. For example, Jesus Christ had cured many people who were suffering from leprosy and gave life to many dead people, but he told them not to tell anyone because Jesus Christ knew that only he could make miracle happen, and if rumor had spread about his miracle, then his work of service would be opposed by other religious leaders. Fifth, another important characteristic of servant leaders is reliance on persuasion, rather than using one’s positional authority in making decisions within an organization. A successful servant leader seeks to convince others, rather than giving orders to their workers to follow his/her decision. This particular element offers one of the clearest distinctions between the traditional authoritarian model and that of servant leadership. A servant leader is effective at building harmony within his/her group.
For example, Mother Teresa had persuaded others to help her eradicate the poverty and diseases by providing medicine, bandages, food, and clothes to people who needed them. The sixth characteristic of an excellent servant leader is conceptualization and foresight. The ability to look at a problem from a conceptualizing perspective means that one must think beyond day-to-day realities. While a traditional leader is more likely to be consumed by the need to achieve short-term operational goals. A servant leader, instead, stretches his or her thinking to encompass broader-based conceptual thinking. The ability to conceptualize is also very closely related to the ability to have foresight. Foresight is a characteristic that enables the servant leader to understand the lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and the likely consequences of a decision for the future. For example, Mother Teresa knew that although she followed Catholicism, she should not preach her religion to people since it would be opposed by the Hindus because they would think that Mother Teresa was converting them from Hinduism to Christianity, and the government of India would stop her service to humanity.
The seventh essential characteristic of an excellent servant leader is stewardship. As per definition.com, the stewardship is defined as, “holding something in trust for another.” Stewardship means an institution in which CEO, staff members, and trustees all play significant roles in holding their institutions in trust for the greater good of society. Servant leadership, like stewardship, assumes first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others. It also emphasizes the use of openness and persuasion, rather than control. For example, Mother Teresa used her ability of persuasion to tell others to help her in the noble cause and invited decision of every individual to give better care and services to diseased and poor people. The eighth and essential characteristic of an excellent servant leader is a commitment to the growth of people and building community. Servant leaders believe that people have an intrinsic value beyond their contributions as workers.
A servant leader also recognizes the tremendous responsibility to do everything in his or her power to nurture personal and professional growth of employees and colleagues. In practice, this can include actions such as making funds available for personal and professional development, and encouraging workers to be involved in decision-making. Servant leaders also seek to identify some means for building community among those who work within a given institution. Servant leadership suggests that true community can be created among those who work in businesses and other institutions.
For example, Mother Teresa had persuaded others to help her with raising funds to establish clinics for people with diseases and to buy clothes, slippers, and food for poor people. By doing this, she had built a better community within society in many countries of the world. At last, I would like to conclude that servant leaders seek to involve others in decision making, and servant leadership is strongly based on ethical and caring behaviors. It also enhances the growth of workers while improving the caring and quality of organizational life by employing the characteristics like listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, and commitment to the growth of people and building the community. Indeed, servant leadership offers great hope for the future in creating better, more caring, institutions.