THE SERVANT LEADER

Bruce I. Doyle, III. Ph.D.

The concept of Servant-Leadership was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf (1904-1990) in his essay The Servant as Leader which he published at the age of 66.  The word “servant” evokes different images for different people until they have a clear understanding of Robert’s Greenleaf’s vision. 

Joe Batten, author of Tough-Minded Management, wrote that “real servant-leaders are committed to the growth and renewal of all with whom they come into contact.”  One might say then that servant-leaders are “service-oriented”, “people-oriented”, or leaders who “lead from the heart”. 

Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, states that “servant-leadership is all about making goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help your people.  In that situation, they don’t work for you – you work for them.” 

As Greenleaf put it, “The servant-leader is servant first.  It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve.  Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”  Greenleaf’s test for qualifying a servant leader is to ask, “Do those served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”  Are you beginning to get a picture of Greenleaf’s vision? 

The best thing about servant-leadership is that you don’t have to be a CEO or a high level executive to be a servant-leader.  You don’t even have to have others reporting to you.  Everyone can be a servant-leader.  No matter what you do or where you work, you can practice the Ten Characteristics of Servant-Leadership in your relationship with others: Listening, Empathy, Healing Ability, Awareness, Persuasion, Conceptualization, Foresight and Intuition, Stewardship, Commitment to Growth of People, and Building Community.  Of course it’s understood that you apply these characteristics with impeccable Integrity. 

Larry Spears, Executive Director of the Greenleaf Center in Indianapolis, Indiana writes in Leadership in a New Era, “Servant-leadership crosses all boundaries and is being applied by a wide variety of people working with for-profit, not-for-profit corporations, churches, universities, and foundations.”  This is quite evident if you were to attend one of the classes of the year-long Servant Leadership Certification Course conducted by the San Diego Leadership Initiative (SDLI). 

SDLI is an emerging, not-for-profit, educational organization whose mission is “Serving and Developing Leaders with Integrity” - www.Leadershipinitiative.org.  SDLI is currently training and certifying Servant Leaders. Some serve as Executive Coaches, work at SDSU, the University of Phoenix, Chapman University, the cities of San Diego and Chula Vista, WD-40, Viejas Enterprises, PETCO, San Diego Association of Realtors, and the Department of the Navy - to name a few. 

Here’s a real life example of where having a servant-leader would have made a big difference in the outcome. 

Linda Adams published an interesting article titled Being a Leader Doesn’t Make You One in the June 25, 2003 issue of the Washington Post.  The article chronicled the downfall of Howell Raines, Executive Director of the New York Times. 

Adams wrote, “Clearly Raines had the technical expertise to do a stellar job.  What he reputedly lacked, however, were people skills.  When the chips were down and he desperately needed the support of his staff, in order to keep his job, they seemed to almost gleefully let him twist in the wind.” 

Linda describes an unfortunate situation.  Just imagine how different the impression of the business world would be today if companies like Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, and Global Crossing had been guided by servant-leaders - what a difference a little integrity makes. 

I am personally aware of two outstanding servant-leaders here in San Diego – Garry Ridge, President and CEO of WD-40 and Rick Valencia, COB, CEO, and President of ProfitLine.  Rick recently said, “ProfitLine’s people are its biggest asset.  I believe you need to reward your team members for a job well done, and nothing gives me more pleasure than investing in my team and making this a great place to work.”  ProfitLine has been recognized as one of the Best Companies to Work For in San Diego and also received the Excellence in Work Environment Award sponsored by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

Garry’s e-mail signature line contains the following wisdom:

·         Believe in yourself

·         Never give up

·         Take one day at a time

We all have something significant yet to do!!!!

Wouldn’t you like to work for a leader with an attitude like that? 

Garry was recently honored as “CEO of the Week” on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Moneyline program.  During the interview with Lou, Garry continually referred to “the people” at WD-40.  He ducked taking personal credit for WD-40’s stellar performance. 

Garry and Rick - as servant-leaders - are “making a difference” serving their people, their customers, and our community. 

Just about everyone I know wants their life to “make a difference”.  If you’re still seeking you mission in life, become a servant-leader – you’ll make a big difference – in your life and the lives of others. 

 

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