Servant leadership is a new form of leadership rooted in thousands of years of leadership principles. Robert Greenleaf coined the term in the 1970’s after reading a novel entitled Journey to the East and concluding that people have an inherent desire to serve. This desire then produces a desire to lead others. Leaders are then gauged on whether they create new leaders who are willing to help others. Biblical servant-leadership focuses on serving others. The main difference would be that serving God is the priority for the Christian. After serving God, the Christian will then be empowered to serve others with a pure selfless motive. This motive is the same motive that Jesus Christ had when he sacrificed himself for humanity by obeying the command of His Father.
Biblical Analysis of Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership Perspective.
The term Servant Leadership was coined by Robert Greenleaf and has the idea that a person has a natural feeling to serve followed by the desire to lead others (van Dierendonck, 2011). The concept of servant leadership is based on many religious and humanist teaching dating back over thousands of years (Spears, 1996). Greenleaf developed his basis for servant leadership from reading the novel Journey to the East in which Greenleaf concluded that the best leaders are the best servants (Spears, 2004). Modern servant leadership is characterized by ten traits which include listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment, and building community (Spears, 2004). Servant leadership sets itself apart from other leadership theories in that it focuses on humility, authenticity and interpersonal acceptance (van Dierendonck, 2011). To show if a leader is a true servant lead the trainees of the servant leader must be servants themselves (van Dierendonck, 2011).
Greenleaf’s assertion that humans have a natural feeling to serve seems correct. However, the question should be asked, who do humans have a natural desire to serve, self or others? Scripture says, ““The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9, New King James Version)? Is a person leading for the right reasons? Greenleaf asserts that others are the primary focus of servant leadership (Duby, 2009). One way to prevent self-service is to make God the focus on servant leadership. The Bible tells Christians to seek first the kingdom of God then all other needs will be the byproduct (Matthew 6:33). Seeking the kingdom of God shows a submission to God’s will (Duby, 2009) Greenleaf believes it is key to serve others. Scripture shows it is key to serve God first. The Apostle Paul calls believers to be imitators of Christ as they serve (Coulter, 2003). Paul did not tell believers to consider their natural self, but to look to Christ for instruction to serve God and others. Servant leadership or any other type of leadership needs to be Christ-centered for it to be successful. (Fischer ,2010a).
Blanchard, K., & Hodges, P. (2008). Lead like Jesus: Lessons for everyone from the greatest leadership role model of all time. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Blanchard, K., & Hodges, P. (2003). The servant leader. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Coulter, G. L. (2003). The servant leader. Christian Education Journal, 7(1), 23–45. Retrieved from, http://p2048-www.liberty.edu.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/docview/205458916?accountid=12085
Fischer, K. (2010a). Biblical leadership. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from Liberty University Course BUSI 502 Blackboard site.
Fischer, K. (2010b). Personal application. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from Liberty University Course BUSI 502 Blackboard site.
Liberty University. (2014a). BUSI-502 Servant leadership Module/Week 1. Leading like Jesus who will you follow? How will you lead?. [PowerPoint slides]. Available from http://www.liberty.edu.
Liberty University. (2014b). BUSI-502 Servant leadership Module/Week 3. The head of a servant leader. [PowerPoint slides]. Available from http://www.liberty.edu.
Liberty University. (2014c). BUSI-502 Servant leadership Module/Week 2. The servant leader. [Audio Presentation]. Available from http://www.liberty.edu.
Spears, L. C. (2004). Practicing servant-leadership. Leader to Leader, 2004(34), 7–11. Retrieved from, http://p2048-www.liberty.edu.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/docview/218344443?accountid=12085
Spears, L. (1996). Reflections on Robert K. Greenleaf and servant leadership. Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 17(7), 33-35. Retrieved from, http://p2048-www.liberty.edu.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.proquest
van Dierendonck, D. (2011). Servant leadership: A review and synthesis. Journal of Management, 37(4), 1228-1261. DOI: 10.1177/0149206310380462