The Servant is an easy read because it introduces important principles by telling a story. We meet with Simeon, the teacher, whose name was Len Hoffman in the business world. Then there are:
John Daily, businessman from Michigan; Lee, Pastor from Wisconsin; Greg, a drill sergeant from the U.S. Army; Theresa, a Hispanic public school principal; Chris, an African-American woman’s basketball coach from Michigan State University; and Kim, a head nurse from the Providence Hospital Birthing Center. They all meet at a Benedictine Monastery in Western Michigan to learn about the internal aspects of leadership.
In their daily meetings they discuss and come up with a leadership model which is sometimes called: Servant Leadership.
Rather than just dealing with management issues, the group compares spiritual virtues of love and service to the traditional format of management. Each of the participants contributes to the model:
Love and Leadership
Patience -- showing self-control
Kindness -- giving attention, appreciation and encouragement
Humility -- being authentic without pretence or arrogance
Respectfulness -- treating others as important people
Selflessness -- meeting the needs of others
Forgiveness -- giving up resentment when wronged
Honesty -- being free from deception
Commitment -- sticking to your choices
Their conclusion is that service and sacrifice is a worth-while result where one sets aside their own wants and needs and seeks the greatest good for others.
"What we think or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do.”
~ John Ruskin – English writer
In the process of one week all six participant work together with their teacher to put together a leadership model based on service and love. They discover that leadership is not based on power, rather an authority which is built on love, relationships, sacrifice and service. Simeon, the teacher draws from his many life experiences as business and family man, challenges the others beyond religious beliefs with principles which we all can apply in our daily lives. Servant leadership is deeply rooted in all religious faiths. Therefore, it is unifying and touches the lives of each person present in the seminar. But it also challenges the reader that change can only come from changing ourselves. We learn that the Golden Rule applies to all of us and that love is not a noun (making us feel fuzzy inside) but a verb. Love means doing for others.
"It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."
~ Robert K. Greenleaf, creator of the lifestyle of Servant Leadership
Mr. Greenleaf doesn’t consider servant leadership a concept or a principle. It is an inner standard of living which requires a spiritual understanding of identity, mission, vision and environment.
Another important fact is that nobody is born a leader or with certain talents for leadership. Leadership is based on choices which allow us to adapt skills. Most of these skills don’t come easily, they have to be earned based on discipline and sacrifice.
None-the-less, there are companies who use the servant leadership model as their management style.
Servant leadership doesn’t need a position, it can be practiced anywhere where there are people. We can build a culture of heart where people are willingly serving each other. Doesn’t that sound like the Kingdom of Heaven?