The concept of “Servant Leadership” was first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 in an
essay, “The servant as Leader”. “The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the
natural feeling that one wants to serve.
That is primarily because these leaders have “a serve-first mindset”, and they are focused on
empowering and elevating those who work for them.
Who is a Servant Leader?
Servant leaders put other
people’s needs first before
their own. For them it is
always “People First”
What makes a Servant Leader a “Servant Leader”?
Desire to Serve… Most experts agree on one core principle that successful servant leadership starts with a leader’s desire to serve people which in turn serves and benefits the Institution or organization at large. Michael Timmes, a Leadership Coach and a senior Human Resources Specialist says “This serve-first mindset can be put into practice from the beginning, during an employee’s on-boarding phase.
Let us take a look at some of the qualities of Servant Leadership
- They listen more
- They always put people first
- They are empathetic
- Commitment to the growth of people
- Community and / or Society building
If we turn to History books, here are some of the great Servant Leaders from whom we can take inspiration and lessons from “Martin Luther King Jr. Mahathma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela” to name few.
Just to quote one example here; when I was serving as a President of one of the Rotary Clubs, (a Social organisation into Humanitarian service) in one of the Leadership sessions, I remember this story narrated by one of the Young Speakers on Servant Leadership. I am reproducing it what I had heard from the Speaker.
In one of the 5 Star Hotels in US where an International business meeting was called for and some of the Indian delegates had gone there. At the Restaurant while having dinner, one of the delegates found a dead cockroach on his plate. Well, you can imagine how one reacts to this and that being in a 5 Star hotel in US! He got a shock of his life and moved away fromthe table and started screaming at the Waiters and asked them to call the steward or the F&B Manager. Steward comes trying to calm him down with an apology but this gentleman was furious and continues to scream. The Steward finally said “Sir am extremely sorry, our sincere apologies, we will clear this mess and ensure your comfort. Well, the delegate was upset, disappointed and disgusted did not seem to be at peace. The steward comes forward towards his plate, took the dead cockroach on his hand and swallowed it to his disbelief.
Let us look at Servant Leadership in Teaching.. Are Teachers
Teachers are an excellent example of the Leaders in Servant Leadership, they display the same set of characteristics of a Servant Leader. They see beyond what the student can see, they stay real, they seek reaching out to students to help.
Great teachers have a vision and they share what they observe with their students. They inspire, empower and use encouraging words and have confidence in their students, both in and outside the classroom. This gives the students insight into a vision they might not have had for themselves
As teacher’s they are seen as educators and leaders in society. If we do a survey and ask Teachers why they decided to take teaching as their career path, perhaps a few will say “for the long holidays and a flexible, easy and short working hours, but there are also those who decide to become teachers to make a difference in the world, they are the ones who go one to become role models, who inspire, help and to care. These teachers make teaching a life mission and strive for greatness not solely in themselves but in their students. They sacrifice a lot to for the benefit of their students.
At the same time, there are many challenges Teachers face and their core objective or purpose of serving may get defeated at times. While reading a book “A journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness by Robert Greenleaf, I have observed that in today’s challenging School work environment with the emphasis on many daily routines, testing, parental pressures, deadlines, standards, and accountability, teachers can easily feel
frustrated by the amount of time and resources left over for teaching–for guiding students not only in academics but also in character education.
In conclusion, I can say that Servant leadership provides an overarching philosophy that could enhance teacher leadership programs and in turn, strengthen the role of teacher leadership in our educational systems.