Leadership Notes #35 – Servant Leadership Redux I

(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)

Every so often in this series I will revisit concepts, maybe delve into them deeper or provide new (or newly found) resources. Servant leadership is a topic that is still expanding with new works or has works that should be explored further. So here are some recent works and some I mentioned too briefly in the past.

First off, here is a great video I found on Greenleaf and the Greenleaf Center: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnCCs1aoiMo

The Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership (www.greenleaf.org), as noted in a previous Note, publishes works on servant leadership along with selling works by others. Since that Note, they have put out a few more. I had mentioned “The Hine Bibliography”, but had not gotten a copy. This is an annotated bibliography (there are comments with most works, from a sentence to a paragraph) of servant leadership and related (values, ethics, leadership, etc). This work came out in 2008, so I hope that in a few years we might seen an updated edition. I do hope they do some editing, because I was bother by the repetition of some works (listing hardback, paperback, and revised editions of some works as separate entries just wastes space).

Their latest volume is “Servant Leadership in the Boardroom”, focuses on servant-leadership with corporate boards, both for profit and non-profit corporations. In some ways this builds on what Greenleaf wrote in “Trustees as Servants”. This is also the subject of one of Max DePree’s works, “Called to Serve”, tho his work focused only on non-profit boards. (I devoted one Note to DePree)

The Center also publishes a series of essays, these are shorter than the afore mentioned books. This series was originally called “The Voice of Servant Leadership”, and published under the leadership of Larry Spears for 12 volumes. The first 10 of these were reprinted in “The Practice of Servant-Leadership”. While the series has moved to the Spears Center (http://spearscenter.org/) who has added to the series, the Greenleaf Center is still publishing additional essays as well. (Again, I devoted one Note to Spears and his work)

The first of these new essays is Stephen Prosser’s “Servant Leadership: More Philosophy, Less Theory”. As the title may indicate, the author looks at whether servant leadership is a philosophy or a leadership theory (like situational leadership), and concludes that it is a philosophy, a way of looking at leadership. A very interesting and thought provoking idea. If you are interested in learning more of the underlying ideas of servant leadership, check this out.

Don Frick’s “Greenleaf & Servant-Leader Listening” is the most recent essay. It’s about gaining a better understanding of “listening” and how it’s important for a servant-leader.

Another new essay, which is not part of this series, is “My Life with Father”, which is the first publication of Robert Greenleaf’s last essay, about his father. I haven’t read it, but its description does sound interesting, as in it Greenleaf credits his father with influencing his later work on servant leadership. I should point out that the Center actually publishes about 10 or so of Greenleaf’s most important essays as separate works.

Putting servant leadership into practice can be hard. It’s more than just latching onto the terms, or getting everyone to read Greenleaf. In many cases an organization must create a means of sustaining the practices of servant leadership to make it truly part of their culture. A couple of works on this topic are “Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership” by James Sipe and Don Fricks and “Implementing Servant Leadership: Stories from the Field” by Don Fricks. “Seven Pillars” puts forth and explains seven elements that an organizational culture must implement to promote and sustain servant leadership. “Implementing Servant Leadership” doesn’t touch on these elements, but does give examples of organizations who have implemented servant leadership successfully in their culture. It would serve as a great companion work to “Seven Pillars”.

Now, you may have noticed the name of Don Fricks in several of the above works. I should point out that he recently wrote a biography of Robert Greenleaf that is supposed to be very good. It’s based on years of research into Greenleaf by the author.

Larry Spears, with Shann Ray Ferch, has created another great introductory work on servant leadership: “Spirit of Servant Leadership”. This book is a collection of essays, many by major writers in the field of leadership, on various elements of servant leadership. I encourage people to check it out.

Here is a classic video clip of Larry Spears when he was the executive director of the Greenleaf Center and done as part of a Dateline special on the Power of Faith: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDVDXPo0ytM (quality isn’t as good as I’d like, so if someone knows of a better version, let me know).

Leadership speaker and trainer James Hunter (http://www.jameshunter.com/) has two good books on servant leadership. “The Servant” introduces the concept thru a story or parable, similar to the “One Minute Manager” series by Blanchard. Some may not like this sort of format, but it’s a good, short, introduction of the concept that is done in a different way. The second is “The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle”, which gives practical information on how to implement servant leadership in your life and work. The focus is more on the business world, then the non-profit, which is good as there are an overwhelming number of works focusing on the non-profit (or religious) uses of servant leadership. In addition to these 2 books, he has a servant leadership training course available on audio. If you look around, you can find this on CD fairly inexpensively.

James Autry (www.jamesaautry.com) is an author, poet, and former CEO (he was involved in the company that publishes “Better Homes and Gardens”). He has written several books, include business works “Love and Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership”, “Life and Work: A Manager’s Search for Meaning” and the “Book of Hard Choices.” In the area of servant leadership, he wrote “The Servant Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve Bottom-Line Performance.” It focuses on real life use of servant leadership within the business world, giving concrete explanations of servant leadership in action. It also shows you how to remain true to the servant leadership model when handling day-to-day and long-term management situations.

I’ve come across a few articles on servant leadership that criticizes it because it’s somehow `not backed up by research’. Well, servant leadership is more a leadership philosophy, rather than a scientific concept like situational leadership (see the afore mentioned essay). But I came across this book on Amazon recently that I think might fit the bill: “Servant Leadership: Developments in Theory and Research” edited by Dirk Van Dierendonck and Kathleen Patterson and published in 2010. It’s 208 pages of 15 scholarly articles. I just wish it wasn’t about $80-90. So try Inter-library loan.