Leadership Notes #69 – Servant Leadership Redux II

(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.)

As always, I like to revisit some concepts. Servant leadership continues to be an important area of study. New works continue to come out, from the Greenleaf Center (www.greenleaf.org) and others. Here are some of the works that have come out recently on servant leadership, along with a few that have been around but we haven’t looked at more deeply.

“The Serving Leader” (2003) from Ken Jennings and John Stahl-Wert is different introduction to servant leadership. It’s part of the “Ken Blanchard Series”, which are short leadership works under the editorship of Ken Blanchard. As noted, it’s an introduction to servant leadership, which presents the concept thru the “business parable” style, using a fictional story. It also puts forth a framework of 5 actions, which is presented as a “Serving Leader Pyramid”, with the point at the bottom. The five actions are:

• Building on Strength
• Blaze the Trail
• Raise the Bar
• Upend the Pyramid
• Run to Great Purpose

What are these actions? “Run to Great Purpose” is having a vision for the group, one that should be inspiring and challenging. “Upend the Pyramid” is to turn things over where the leaders serve the followers (the opposite of more orgs, with the leaders at the top of the pyramid, and everyone below them). “Raise the Bar” is about setting expectations high and being selective of who are the team leaders within the organization. “Blaze the Trail” by living the principles of the “serving leader” and working to remove obstacles. And “Building on Strength” is about people being able to contribute what they are best at.

Overall, this book is a good introduction to servant leadership. There is an accompanying website for this at http://www.servingleaders.com/. One of the authors has a video at YouTube on serving leaders: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zu2jA4C3T8g

Another new introductory work on servant leadership is “The Art of Servant Leadership” (2010) by Tony Baron. The focus here is a bit more on business, which may make it a little less suitable for those of us using it in member organizations or non-profits. As a way to illustrate the concepts, the real story of the transformation of Datron World Communications by their CEO. I think using a real story of a business transformation is good, as it clearly shows the value and benefit to a company in using servant leadership. What I also found useful about this work is that about half of it is on servant leadership, and half is on building a servant leadership culture. Both are needed, but most introductory works focus on just explaining the concept of servant leadership to an individual, but seldom deal with developing a culture that will grow and sustain the principles of servant leadership within an organization.

Another nice element of this work is that each chapter ends with a section of discussion points and self-assessment questions for the reader.

There is a video for this book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qHXphtHrRg, and the book comes from the Servant Leadership Institute http://www.forthesakeofothers.com/ which has other resources.

Another introductory book that’s been around awhile, but I think has been overlooked (I wasn’t aware of it) is “Servant Leadership in the Real World” (2002) by Dr. Kurt Takamine. Again, focus here is on an introduction to servant leadership and how to implement it in a corporate environment. It’s meant to be an easy read, and I think the author did a pretty good job of this. But again the business focus may make it less useful to people in a member organization. I did like that each chapter ended with several open-ended questions on personal application of what was covered in that chapter.

The Greenleaf Center continues with its series of short essays on servant leadership. They have recently come out with 3 additional ones. “The Wisdom of Servant Leadership” is an interview with leader Isabel Lopez. She examines the central concepts of servant leadership, as well as how to put it into use, using examples from her own life as a leader in a company. “The Gift of Dialogue”, by David Young, in many ways builds on the previous essay on servant leadership listening (covered in the previous Note on servant leadership), by looking at the importance of dialoguing. Dialoguing is meant as the next step in the process after listening in developing the relationship between the leader and the follower. The third, “Servant Leadership in Hard Times” looks at how servant leadership can be used in organizations under harsh issues. Here, the example used is a manufacturing facility being shutdown, but where quality still needed to be kept up.

The Greenleaf Center’s executive director, Kent Keith, has come out with another good work on servant leadership: “Questions and Answers on Servant Leadership”, which I have been looking forward to after hearing about it. This work presents about 30 questions about servant leadership, each giving a short 1-2 page answer and usually some areas of further study. Many are ones I’ve encountered in presenting servant leadership, and so I think this is a valuable work. There are the expected questions like “what is servant leadership”, to less common ones like “is it religious” and “is it a philosophy”. I think any wanted to learn more about servant leadership would benefit from this work, reading it after “The Case for Servant Leadership” by the same author. This work also has some good resources in the back, including a nice recommended reading list on servant leadership.

I should point out that Kent Keith has recently stepped down from the Center, and a new person has stepped up as their executive director. An upcoming Notes will focus on Keith’s many other works.