Servant Leadership:The Theories of Robert Greenleaf Fawn Russell LIBR 282 Fall 2012
Who Was Robert Greenleaf? Born on July 14th, 1904 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Family was involved in local politics; father was a maschinist and eventually ran the practice shops at Rose Polytechnic (where Robert ended up going to school). After graduating at Minnesota State went to work at AT&T for 35 years as the Director of Management, in which he retired early in 1964.
A Second Career Became a consultant andspeaker on the role of leadersthroughout the 1960s; spoke atseveral universities/Nonprofitsincluding M.I.T., Dartmouth andHarvard business schools. Developed his radical theory ofServant Leadership and beganpromoting it in 1970 with hisfirst book “The Servant asLeader”
What is Servant Leadership? 1960s mainstream leadership as a pyramid, with thebosses at the top and employees/volunteers underneath,following instructions given from above; Greenleaf flippedthe model of power-oriented management style. "The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with thenatural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Thenconscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person issharply different from one who is leader first, perhapsbecause of the need to assuage an unusual power drive orto acquire material possessions…The leader-first and theservant-first are two extreme types. Between them thereare shadings and blends that are part of the infinite varietyof human nature.” (Greenleaf Center website)
What is Servant Leadership? In Greenleafs next essay, “The Institute as Servant”, Greenleafshows how it is not just up to the individual but organizations as awhole to serve the customer; instead of viewing them simply ascash flow. “This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and theless able serving each other, is the rock upon which a goodsociety is built. Whereas, until recently, caring was largelyperson to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions- often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not alwayscompetent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built,one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greatercreative opportunity for its people, then the most open course isto raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance asservant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forcesoperating within them.” (Robert Greenleaf, from “ServantLeadership” page 62)
The Greenleaf Center A nonprofit organization established originally in 1964 as the Center for Applied Ethics. Greenleaf served as the President until 1985. Now known as The Greenleaf Center, the organization promotes the theories of Robert Greenleaf and compassionate ways of leading which empower all. The mission of the centers service is that it “promotes the awareness, understanding, and practice of servant leadership by individuals and organizations.” (Greenleaf Center Mission)
What is most valuable to us, as practicingleaders/managers, from Robert K. Greenleafs work?Seeing the potential for growth professionally and personally is a huge benefit in adapting this managing philosophy.It promotes community ethics, a sense of self and individuality without being ego-centered, and shared empowerment.Over-arching theme of empathy: “The ability to mentally project one’s own consciousness into that of another individual. Greenleaf wrote, The servant always accepts and empathizes, never rejects (1970, p. 12), and Men grow taller when those who lead themempathize, and when they are accepted for who they are… (1970, p. 14)”. (Smith)
ReferencesGreenleaf, Robert K. & Spears, Larry C. (1977 & 2002).Servant leadership: a journey into the nature oflegitimate power and greatness. New Jersey: PaulistPress.Greenleaf center for servant leadership. Retrieved9/19/2012 from www.Greenleaf.orgSmith, Carol. (2005). Servant leadership: theleadership theory of Robert K. Greenleaf. Retrieved9/19/2012 fromwww.carolsmith.us/downloads/640greenleaf.pdf