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Robert K. Greenleaf: Servant Leadership Essay

Frederick Douglass said, “He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise”. This quote is a direct reference to what servant leaders are. They have a great desire to serve and work for the benefit of others. They share their power with their followers and ensure that their followers most important needs are met. The term servant leader was fabricated in an essay by Robert K. Greenleaf called, “The Servant as Leader”.

According to Larry C.vSpears, Greenleaf spent most of his life doing management research, development and education at AT&T. He also served as a consultant for a major number of institutions. Obtaining all of this experience helped him instill these ideas into his work which stemmed around the theme of “The Servant as Leader”. One event that set this way of thinking in motion is when Greenleaf read Hermann Hesse’s novel. Greenleaf said that a servant leader is a leader that is a servant first. According to Greenleaf himself, “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.

Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. 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? “. Servant Leadership has the potential to create positive change throughout our entire world.

Servant leaders have 10 characteristics. The first one is listening and it means to take notice of what someone says or does. Servant leaders should have a strong commitment to listening intently to others. It also involves listening to one’s own voice. The second characteristic is empathy which is the ability to understand the feelings of others. The servant leader should strive to understand and accept others. The most successful leaders learn to empathize with others. The third characteristic is healing which is the process of becoming sound or healthy again.

Learning to heal can be a powerful trait, and any good leader be able to identify any one in need of healing whether it be spiritually or mentally. The fourth characteristic is awareness and awareness is perception of a situation. Having general and self-awareness can greatly strengthen a leader. The fifth characteristic is persuasion which is the act of convincing someone to do or believe in something. Servant leaders don’t reside to forcing or coercing others but instead rely on building consensus within groups. The sixth characteristic is conceptualization which involves forming an idea.

This characteristic requires great discipline and practice. The seventh characteristic is foresight which is the ability to predict what will happen in the future. This ability helps leaders understand lessons from the past and foresee any danger or consequences in the future. The eighth characteristic is “Stewardship” which according to Peter Block is defined as “holding something in trust for another”. The ninth characteristic is a commitment to the growth of people. The servant leader should clearly be able to identify what is needed to improve the growth of the others around them.

The tenth characteristic is building community. The leader should seek out a means to build community among those around them. These 10 characteristics communicate what it means to truly be a servant leader. The servant leadership style crosses boundaries while being applied by a wide variety of people. A group oriented approach to decision making can be used as a way to strengthen institutions, and improve society. Many people have used servant leadership as philosophy that guides them. Some businesses have adopted servant leadership s an important framework. Some even suggest that businesses start off with the framework because of the benefits that come with it. Servant leadership also plays a role as a theoretical and ethical basis among companies. A deepening role in community leadership organizations can be attributed to an application of servant leadership. Community leadership groups are even using Greenleaf Centers to educate themselves. All the applications and characteristics show just what a servant leader is composed of. Throughout history there have been many servant leaders.

They came in may races and all were servant leaders for many different reasons. One of those great servant leaders was a man named Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass was a 19th century human rights leader in the antislavery movement and the first African-American to hold a high ranking government rank (Bio. com). Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland around the year 1818. He initially lived with his but was selected at a young age to live in the home of the plantation owners. His mother, who had an on and off presence in his life, died when he was 10.

Frederick was eventually sent off the home of Hugh Auld. Even though slaves were not supposed to be taught to read or write, Hugh Auld’s wife still taught Frederick the alphabet. She eventually was forced to stop, but Frederick continue to learn from other whites in the neighborhood. Through reading, Frederick found his beliefs in reading which solidified his opposition to slavery. He sought out political writing and literature as much as possible. He shared his knowledge with other slaves and even once taught some of them how to read the New Testament.

Some slave owners however found his practices distasteful and would come armed with clubs and stones in order to disperse the congregation. Douglass attempted to escape slavery two times with no success, but the third time he had assistance from a woman named Anna Murray. They later married each other and settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a thriving community of free slaves. He also delivered his speech at an Anti-Slavery Convention in Nantucket.

After encouragement from William Lloyd Garrison, he wrote his first autobiography which turned into a best seller in the U. S. Besides abolition, Frederick also became supporter of women’s rights. He later used his fame to influence the role of African-Americans during the civil war. Even though Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in confederate territory, Frederick was still disappointed that Lincoln did not openly endorse the right to vote for free black men. Frederick continued on in life and served many political roles such as the president of the Freedman’s Savings Bank. He even was the first African-American to be nominated for Vice-President.

Frederick Douglass later remarried after his wife Anna died. The woman he married was 20 years younger than him and was white. This caused controversy and disappointment from his children. On February 20, 1985, he attended a meeting in Washington, D. C. When he returned home from the meeting, he died of a massive heart attack or stroke. Looking at his life you could see what kind of man that Frederick Douglass was. He was an abolitionist, a speaker, an author who stood for up for slave’s freedom, women’s right to vote, and equal rights for everyone in general.

He believed that the U. S. Constitution anti-slavery document and stood beside it faithfully. He used his power and skills to argue for the freedom of slaves and equal rights for all. During Fredericks time racists believed African-Americans were incapable of higher learning or any contribution to society. Frederick was a living embodiment of opposition to that very belief. His impressive writing and speech skills amazed audiences of all kinds no matter where he went. He had no fear of the consequences that could have come because he spoke his mind.

One example is his famous “What to the slave is the 4th of July speech” which he spoke out to a predominately white audience on Independence Day itself. He also wrote a letter that slammed his former owner when he asked how he would feel if he were in his shoes when horrible threats were made to Frederick and his family. His selflessness is what made him a true servant leader. Quoted form Fortune Magazine “Servantleadership works like the consensus building that the Japanese are famous for. Yes, it takes a while on the front end; everyone’s view is solicited, though everyone also understands that his view may not ultimately prevail.

But once the consensus is forged, watch out: With everybody on board, your so called implementation proceeds wham-bam”. Interest in the ilosophy of servant leadership is at a new level and hundreds of articles have appeared on websites, in journals, in newspapers, and magazines. In other words, the servant leadership style is a growing movement. For some people the words “leader” and “servant” may carry a bad name. However, thanks to Greenleaf, the paring of the words provided a different effect. It also prompted new insights on life itself.

One article written by Juana Bordas stated, “Many women, minorities and people of color have long traditions of servant-leadership in their cultures. Servant-leadership has very old roots in many of the indigenous cultures. Cultures that were holistic, cooperative, communal, intuitive and spiritual. These cultures centered on being guardians of the future and respecting the ancestors who walked before. ” Famous women leaders and authors are also seeing the great qualities that can be found in servant leadership. All in all, servant leadership is not a leadership style or technique but a way of behaving that you adopt over time.

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