Servant leaders: “Authentic leaders have high levels of awareness and high values as well as confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience.”
Servant leadership is moving outside of religious institutions into mainstream business; at least that’s what some business gurus are saying.
Since the Global Financial Crisis organisations have been facing legitimacy issues as employees fail to see their leaders live the values their organisation espouses and customers feel betrayed when products or services fall short of what is promised.
The name servant leadership may be seen as “soft” but increasingly soft skills are delivering big results.
Advocates of servant leadership state there are ten characteristics – listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualisation, foresight, stewardship, commitment to others, and building community.
Some credit the concept to ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu.
Others draw links with: “You know among the Gentiles those whom they recognise as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; whoever wishes to become great among you must be servant of all,” (Mark, 10:42-44).
Leaders who seek to blame others for their organisation’s flawed ethics are increasingly being named and shamed – think of Volkswagen ex-chief executive Marin Winterkorn who blamed engineers for cheating on emissions tests.
People do not like disingenuous behaviour whether it is an individual or an organisation.
Window-dressing, appearing to be something you are not, will eventually be seen.
For some this reality may come as a rude shock following years of self-deception where they have created a culture where questions cannot be asked and positioning cannot be challenged.
The path to servant leadership comes from a desire to serve others – not a desire for ego and remuneration.
Servant leadership has to do with more responsibility, not less work.
When the responsibility to serve others is understood the glamour of being on top of the organisational chart paves way to the real challenge of putting values into action and bringing troops or a flock with you.
Authentic leaders have high levels of awareness and high values as well as confidence, hope, optimism, and resilience.
People want to freely follow a leader who possesses these attributes rather than submit to a leader because “I am the boss; you must do as I ask or I will punish you.”
Addressing moral dilemmas is part of leadership territory.
When a leader positively and consistently addresses their own self-regulation they are able to clearly frame the dilemma, transparently respond and in doing so set an example as an ethical role model.
Do you know any leaders who remind of this in your business, sport, church, or family?
At my first training session with Rosies Friends on the Street I was delighted to hear them speak of servant leadership and then see these characteristics demonstrated in the actions and attitudes of team leaders and other volunteers.
There was also a gentle reminder when communally saying the Rosies prayer which includes the line: “So forgetful of self that we might simply become the place where You (Jesus) and they meet in the power of Your Love and the joy of your friendship.”
As we spend time reflecting over the Easter season it is good to consider servant leadership and be reminded of Mark’s words: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45).
Open our hearts, Lord, so we may become servants of Your divine will.
By Claire Burns
Claire Burns is a Brisbane Catholic businesswoman.
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