Published here July 2002.

Introduction  | Leader  | Project Management | Project Manager's Skills 
Project Manager's Types of Leadership | Servant Leadership
Ten Characteristics of a Servant-Leader | Characteristics Compared 
Project Management by a Servant Leader | Risks & Benefits | References

Servant Leadership

Recently there was a job ad for a program manager in the Solomon Islands. Under the requirements section of the ad, it stated that the applicant must exhibit leadership in the servant leadership management style! How many people would wonder what the term servant leadership management means? This style of management has just recently been of interest in leadership and management circles.

Historically, the master-servant relationship was used to work projects such as those that involved building the Seven Wonders of the World. In the early twentieth century the idea of management surfaced and gained popularity (Wideman, 2001, p.2). Eventually empowered work teams became a reality and have played a role in projects as well as other organizational endeavors. However, according to Wideman (2001) good leadership is needed or the results can be "fragmented, controversial and lack substance" (p.5).

Robert K. Greenleaf had the idea in 1970 that a leader could be servant to those he leads. Larry Spears expanded this idea in the mid to late 1990's. He described a servant leader as being one who strives to meet the needs of those served, who assists people in being their best, coaches, assists in their personal growth, listen well and build community (Servant Leadership, p.1).

Larry Spears describes a servant leader as being a servant first. A servant is one "who expresses submission, recognizance, or debt to another" and offers assistance to someone (Atomica, 2002). The individual has the desire to serve others and then to lead. Robert Greenleaf , founder of the term servant-leadership, describes the method for gauging whether an individual has been successful as a servant-leader. " The best test is: 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?" (Spears, p.1) Spears continues to describe a servant leader as one who " seeks to involve others in decision making, is strongly based in ethical and caring behavior, and enhances the personal growth of workers while improving the caring and quality of organizational life." He states that servant leadership is a new way of being in relationship with others in the modern day workplace and is an "emerging leadership paradigm for the twenty-first century." Many leadership authors have advocated servant-leadership since Robert Greenleaf first described the term.

"Robert Greenleaf's new leadership model advocates that the leader who resides at the top works for those in the lower part of the organization. This is a dramatic shift in earlier management and leadership thinking. By turning the hierarchical pyramid upside down, the needs of the organization, clients and business partners become the focus. The Servant-leader approach "advocates a group-oriented approach to analysis and decision making as a means of strengthening institutions, and of improving society. It also emphasizes the power of persuasion and seeking consensus over the old "top-down" form of leadership" (Spears, p.2).

Project Manager's Types of Leadership  Project Manager's Types of Leadership

Home | Issacons | PM Glossary | Papers & Books | Max's Musings
Guest Articles | Contact Info | Top of Page