The Principles of Servant Leadership are abundantly covered in Robert K Greenleaf’s esteemed, pioneering essay, The Servant Leader. The key principles of Servant Leadership seek to offer guidance and cohesion to prospective followers through an essential, ten-step program. These quintessential steps aim to encourage and inspire would be Servant Leaders, but also serve as a pseudo-Biblical-Spiritual handbook for larger institutions looking to change their practices by adopting Greenleaf’s methods, I will discuss these principles in detail.
The key principles as outlined in the former Greenleaf President’s renowned essay are: Listening; Showing empathy; Healing; Having awareness; Persuasive skills; Acute conceptualisation; Good foresight; Stewardship; Commitment to growth and building communities. Listening is an important part of communication as it shows that you are committed to understanding what your employees have to say, thus adding value and boosting morale; in turn this will increase productivity and creativeness in the workplace. Showing empathy is a crucial principle within the scope of servant leadership and possibly the most important. Being empathetic towards employees and possessing the ability to approach their circumstances in a non-judgemental manner is an essential attribute to servant leadership. Being empathetic implies that the leader is kind, but not weak. Servant leaders pertaining to show empathy should not be afraid of making hard decisions or criticising followers, but they should invest empathy in employees at all times. Healing is a colossal attribute to servant leadership as it denotes elements of Christianity, in the same aspect that Jesus wanted to heal others. Servant leaders who have the ability to fix or heal people who have suffered many traumas, possess a very potent quality. Greenleaf says, “There is something subtle communicated to one who is being served and led if implicit in the compact between servant-leader and led is the understanding that the search for wholeness is something they share.” Maintaining awareness is an archetypal attribute of the servant leader as it denotes a holistic and spiritual approach to resolving problems and dealing with conflict resolution. This works especially well in the workplace as employees will be relying on their leader to help them lead the way and reaching the answer to their problems, collectively. To be a successful servant leader, one must be authoritative enough to lead the group to reach the same consensus without the use of coercive or militant language and behaviour. Conceptualising problems is an archetypal way in which employers can offer assistance to employees, they can best execute this by offering their higher perspective to allow a group to collectively see the larger picture. This method will subsequently create an extensive boost in creativity and an intuitive working style. Having an acute sense of foresight and encouraging your employees to do the same is a very effective principle as it emboldens employees to see failures as an opportunity for learning and not to dwell on the past. Possessing a sense of stewardship is important as it emblazons the servant leader to lead by example in a persuasive nature without monopolising and controlling the environment autonomously. Commitment to the growth of people is the penultimate factor in Greenleaf’s ten principles and is of utmost importance. Greenleaf highlighted the need for society to move away from a large-organisation culture and return to the needs of the small communities, because he had the enlightened perspective to see how damaging it is for morale, satisfaction and productivity. People need to feel valued to allow themselves to grow. Greenleaf says, “Do those served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or at least, not be further deprived?”. The last principle in Greenleaf’s ten steps is building community. Greenleaf discovered this need to build community during his time as an executive with multi-national conglomerate AT&T. He understood that culture had shifted towards large organisations, mass dealings with people and a desensitised attitude towards people, and he sought to change it.
Multi-national companies that have adopted servant leadership as a management style are: Starbucks, Whole Foods Market and SAS (amongst others). It is apparent that Greenleaf’s renowned essay, The Servant Leader is entirely engrained in the public psyche. To become successful I would embolden and imitate Greenleaf’s ten key principles, but quintessentially for me, I feel the strongest attribute is being empathetic. As servant leadership has endemic influences in Christianity, empathy features widely and is an attribute adopted by Christians all over the World. Similarly empathy features heavily in servant leadership and is spoken of highly in The Servant Leader, which is why I feel it is the most important attribute.