Robert Greenleaf was the first to shine light on the concept of servant leadership in his 1970 essay ‘The Servant as Leader’. He described the servant-leader as someone that is not just concerned about leadership but also about service; someone that is passionate about the needs of others and will likely put the needs of his followers before his own.
His love for service does not mean that the servant leader is one that will lay back and allow his passion for service be taken for granted; while he may go the extra mile (sometimes beyond the line of duty) to help, inspire and nurture his followers, he also ensures that he does not forget his first role as leader. He is the leader with a moral compass and a strong sense of service and duty.
The servant leader is not expected to lose his sense of respect or his identity in the process of serving. His service is expected to inspire respect amongst his followers who ideally should look up to him and desire to emulate his style of leadership.
Servant-leaders are naturally inclined towards service. They are born with the gift of service and are highly concerned about people’s growth (followers, customers, partners, affiliates, and vendors…everyone that has a working relationship with the organization). Their natural gift for service usually forms the reason why they aspire for leadership positions.
However, not everyone is born with this natural inclination. It can be developed by people who are not naturally inclined if they put their heart to and make a conscious and directed effort to nurture and grow the potential.
The servant-leader is the new kind of leadership the world is looking for in today’s business place and even outside the world of business. It has become the reference point for what leadership should be in the 21st century.