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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Leadership 12

Luke Schubert, Adelaide, Australia asks:
“Have you mentioned servant leadership in this series yet? That's a concept that interests me. Listening to others is a fundamental part of authentic leadership IMHO.”

In further conversations Luke said, “If I remember correctly, servant leadership starts with serving - working out what the needs of others are and how to meet them. Similar to the Alignment protocol [from the Core Protocols] though maybe from a different angle. Perhaps the motivation is different from conventional leadership as well. I was thinking that it lined up with Authentic Leadership as you described it in a few ways but hadn't thought about specifics.”

Thanks Luke (beauty, mate)!

Since, for Christians Jesus is the exemplary Servant-Leader, the Christmas season seemed a good time to get to this question.

Luke and I both went off to research more on this topic and met at the same places from which I have extracts below.

Before we even get to them it's important to distinguish between what I'll call “assigned” or “conferred” leadership – as a CEO or prime minister or boss – and Authentic Leadership as previously discussed – where any one can adopt leadership behaviours based on passion and taking responsibility.

The distinction between them is important to better understanding the notion of Servant-Leadership. One way to clarify the distinction is to see the “assigned” leader as a structural position – a job – where one may or may not exhibit leadership behaviours. I think this is often the cause of confusion between the descriptors “leader” and “manager” and their actions. The positions and behaviours of leaders and managers get muddled in many discussions, blogs, and instances of expectations not met.

I've covered this before in prior blogs; however, the key point is that a position alone does not guarantee, nor does it prevent, the desired behaviours. The concept of a role taken on being a different thing than a position or job assigned is at the heart of keeping the words, and hence the thinking, straight. Using that foundation, one can more readily see how Authentic Leadership is about a role assumed and behaviours demonstrated rather than a title or position conferred.

So a management position is different from a leadership position, and a person in either, or neither, position may demonstrate leadership behaviours.

And all of this preamble plays into what Luke and I found on servant leadership.

At Luke found:
The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions' (Addressing the motivation of leaders ...)
Here the extract is differentiating between one aspiring to lead through a desire to serve (adopting a role) and one who is “leader first” (by virtue of their position).

Luke continues:
“Maybe the connection between this and authentic leadership as you define it is that they're both "emergent and spontaneous" - not formal or authoritarian. Perhaps servant leadership addresses a different aspect of leadership, more the emotional and social side ... (Which I think the Core Protocols also address)”

And, yes, the adoption of the leadership role is emergent – not formalized – because I have inserted the word “role”. As to the emotional and social side, more later.

Turning to Wikipedia, I found at
The modern servant leadership movement was launched by Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 with his essay, “The Servant as Leader,” in which he coined the terms “servant-leader” and “servant leadership.”

The general concept is ancient. Chanakya wrote, in the 4th century B.C., in his book Arthashastra:

“the king [leader] shall consider as good, not what pleases himself but what pleases his subjects [followers]” “the king [leader] is a paid servant and enjoys the resources of the state together with the people.”
This matches a teaching from Laozi (Lao-tzu) in the Dao (Tao):
The ideal ruler restrains his desires, doesn't codify his own subjective standards of right and wrong, and treats all people with goodness and sincerity*
Aha! The wisdom of history pokes its head up. Time to turn to my coach, soul-mate, and historian, Vickie. And that generated a conversation that sharpened my thinking, provided more insights, and will start my next blog as we continue on Servant-Leadership.

*The Tao Speaks translated by Brian Bruya, Doubleday, New York (1995)