Servant Leadership: Does It Positively Impact An Organization?
Servant Leadership: Does it positively impact an organization?
B. N. Johnson
MGMT - 605
Dr. Mary Anne Hughes-Butts
American Military University
December 30, 2018
Servant Leadership: Does it positively impact an organization?
The term leadership had been coined many years ago when the early human beings starting treading this planet and initiated taking big decisions. The early human used to live in tribes and clans and required a responsible person over them to take necessary and critical decision for the whole clan. Those decisions were even life-saving sometimes. That person was known to be the leader of the whole group, whether it be a tribe or a clan. The social systems then started becoming more widespread, and clans turned into more significant populations constituting towns, communities, cities, states and finally countries. No matter how big the group of people is, the requirements of leadership have remained the same. The group of people has always need responsible and influential person on a higher position than the rest of the group, who can manage the group and the issues prevailing within. People of the group expect the leader to be strong in every aspect so that they can look upon him in the times of trouble or confusion. Hence, leadership can be defined as the act of ruling, leading and governing a group of people, whether in a social setting like a family or tribe, political party (parliament or Senate) or professional setup like an organization.
A leader may be of many type. Since the start of the concept of leadership, times have seen various kinds of leaders, who have ruled over people and exercised their authority. Some of them adopted strict approach, to govern over people and became an authoritative leaders while the others used soft skills and friendly approaches to rule over people, hence being called democratic or participative leaders. Where authoritative leaders believe in the use of force to exercise their powered, democratize leaders believed in adopting humanely approaches and teaching their subjects the codes of conduct by practicing them first.
In the recent times, a new type of leadership is emerging in in the circles of leadership, with the name of Servant Leadership. Servant leadership is the term used for a person who implies the style of leadership in which a leader focuses more on serving the people. It is different from the traditional approaches of leadership as it emphasizes on putting the needs and demands of the employees and subjects first as compared to giving importance to all other motives. Hence, the servant leader shares power with the people by empowering them, and not by exercising their authority over them. A servant leader puts others first, gives priority to their needs and focuses on the development of individuals so that they can be more motivated, productive and contribute to the maximum extent in the progress and prosperity of the organization.
In the current times, organizations are preferring to hire such individuals who can practice servant leadership as compared to the other traditional styles of leadership. The reason behind this advancement is that servant leaders provide development at both personal and professional level, without keeping their personal benefit in mind. They serve the organization whole-heartedly, and the organizations can also trust them as they have no personal motives.
Servant leadership has the potential to aid in an organization's structure or culture by uplifting leaders within the organization exhilarating teammates or coworkers to accomplish great goals and objectives that will sway the overall organization. The following research focuses on the fact that servant leadership is a very effect5ive method and benefits the organization in many positive ways.
The term leadership has been defined as “the process of interactive influence that occurs when, in a given context, some people accept someone as their leader to achieve common goals (Silvia, 2016, p.3)." Leadership is not a recent concept. It has been there since a very long time, in fact, it is as old as the human history. The first leader was made when the first tribe or the community was formed on the planet earth. Since then, the concept of leadership has evolved considerably over a large period of time. It is a concept that has emerged over many decades.
In the beginning, leadership patterns were simple. As there was not much population, there were less people to manage and thus less issues used to arise. As the human population started growing, systems began becoming more complex; thus the leadership patterns and responsibilities also started becoming wide. With all this, the leaders also adopted various styles of leadership, to help the community in moving towards a common goal and achieve it.
In the previous days, leaders were authoritarian, dominating, demanding and insulated from followers. They extensively used fear and abuse to exercise their authority and coerce their followers. The leaders in the medieval times also expected unquestioned obedience and the most of the worst part was, people thought that only some people were capable of leadership.
The subject of leadership has always been a topic of great interest for the humans since a very long time. The study on leadership had also begun since the beginning of the leadership itself, but it has become more notable and more highlighted affair in the early 20th century. Some of the notable contributors in this respect was Fredrick Winslow Taylor, James McGregor Burns, Bernard bass, Rensis Lickert, Dr. Fred Feidler, Max Weber, Kurt Lewin, and Dr. Robert Greenleaf, who proposed pragmatic theories in the field of leadership and leadership styles.
The notion of leadership has been around for many decades. Leadership was always looked at by its habits; however, now it’s most commonly seen by the characteristics or demeanor of the actual leader in charge. The engaging essay Greenleaf wrote in 1970 gave birth to the concept of ‘Servant Leadership’ that scholars will come to learn and accept for years to come. A person that is a servant and a person that is a leader are generally looked at as two different types of people. However, that all changed when Robert K. Greenleaf introduced the concept of ‘Servant Leadership.' Servant leadership is when the person that is leading the group/organization is a servant to the group before they are a leader (Greenleaf, 1997).
This notion proposed by Dr. Robert K. Greenleaf was published in a set of essays that he presented in a period of 1970 to 1977. This new concept of leadership was more focused on the subject or the follower instead of the leader and gave more power to the follower. The idea of Servant Leadership, presented by Dr. Robert K. Greenleaf did not garner much popularity until the mid-1990s when Larry Spears worked on Greenleaf’s ideas and enhanced them. Inferring from Greenleaf's pieces of research, Spears proposed that there were ten essential characteristics which were found in every servant leader. Therese were listed as
Commitment to the growth of the people
There are ten characteristics that relate to servant leaders: developing neighborhood, help people grow, protection or stewardship, prudence, approach, influence, alertness, healing, compassion, good listener (Spears, 2010). Another study conducted by James E. Laub in 1999, explained the Servant Leader as a person who is compassionate, helping and understanding. He described the Servant Leader as a leader who helps his subordinates grow and sets excellent examples of leadership. He carries the traits of trustworthiness and has a sense of community (Laub, 1999). On the basis of these inferences, he categorized the personality traits of a Servant Leader into six clusters:
A good servant leader possess all these qualities and using them very sensibly and carefully in order to achieve the desired goal by influencing and motivating its followers.
Looking at the growing positive impact of the Servant Leadership style over the performance and the overall growth of the companies globally, various Multinational Corporations and big organizations are preferring to hire leaders and managers who possess the traits of a servant leader. In order to get a higher rate of employee satisfaction and to retain them for a longer period of time, developed organizations like to hire managers who are servant leaders.
Research has backed up the fact that servant leadership reduces the rate of turnover in an organization. Employees love to work and stay at a place where the principles of Servant Leadership are implied.
This notion was backed up by a research conducted by a group of students of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Johor, Malaysia. The study incorporated various small and medium-sized organizations operating in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The data collection tool used for the purpose of this study was questionnaire, and the statistical tool for data analysis was AMOS. The results of this study revealed that the organizations, where servant leadership was being practiced, showed much minor trends of employee turnover as compared to those organizations where there was an autocratic or democratic leadership. Hence, the hypothesis regarding the negative relationship between Servant leadership and employee turnover proved to be true (Ng, Long, Khairiah, 2016).
Another study conducted on the full-time employees at a University in the South West region of United States of America proved the positive relationship between employee commitment and Servant Leadership. This study’s results showed a definite increase in the commitment levels of the employees, who worked under the supervisors who had the qualities of a Servant Leader. Furthermore, this study stated that this employee commitment worked in both dimensions, for the supervisors as well as the organization. The sample size selected for this study was 207 employees out of which 147 showed interest in the study and participated in it. The tool for collecting primary data was the survey which was distributed among the participants using a money link via e-mail.
Servant leadership also leaves positive impact over the culture of an organization. Many pieces of research have proven the positive relationship between organizational culture and servant leadership along with organizational citizenship behavior. The population under study in the case of this research was handicraft craftsmen from Bekasi Regency, and the data was collected from 240 handicrafts customers. The statistical analysis tool to analyze the data was Structural Equation Modeling, and the results were found out to be valid and reliable. In the case of this study, Servant Leadership significantly correlated with organizational culture and organizational cultural behavior. In return, the organization citizenship behavior showed a positive relationship which as a whole positively affected the customer satisfaction CITATION Set17 \l 1033 (Setyaningrum, 2017).
Another studies prove that Servant Leadership, significantly influences the thought process of the employees and it greatly affects the way an employee reacts, assumes, makes judgments, take decisions and much more within a workplace (Ng, Long, Khairiah, 2016).
The exercise of servant leadership strategies in an organization or setup empower the employees and also help to motivate them greatly. As a servant leader keeps the needs and demand of its employees at the top priority, employees feel more delighted and empowered. A servant leader ensures equal participation of its followers into the decision-making process, in fact, h encourages the followers take the decisions on their own, just observing the process from a distance and rectifying the behavior wherever needed.
In a study conducted on the coaches of successful and unsuccessful national sports team of Islamic Republic of Iran, it was clearly proven that the coaches who served to their followers as a servant leader were more popular among their subjects as compared to authoritative or autocratic leaders who used to dictate instruction or orders to their teams. The coaches of successful teams used the strategies of servant leadership to influence and motivate their employees, this arising a new spirit of confidence and empowerment in the team members. It also enhances the capabilities of the subordinates. Resultantly, this brought success and achievement for the whole team. The data was collected from a sample of 66 individuals with the help of a questionnaire, and the data was analyzed and tested afterward using SPSS16 software.
Servant leadership has a very deep and positive and deep link to the job perforce and task performance by an employee. Studies has shown positive correlation between the servant leadership style and the job performance. One of the major reasons of this constructive factor is the self-interest of the servant leader. As a servant leader takes personal interest in the task assigned to the employee, he first performs the task himself to set an example and then guides his subordinates to follow suit. This significantly helps in achieving the desired standard of performance and higher levels of efficient and effective results.
Servant leadership and motivation, just like job performance, have a very strong and positive link. Servant leadership significantly motivates the employees from within and urges them to move forward. The employees working under the supervision of the servant leaders exhibit higher levels of enthusiasm which is a very positive sign. Motivation is a personal matter, and different employees have different motivating factors, which work for them to get them to work harder and smarter.
Being an empathetic leader, a servant leader carefully listens to the issues and problems being faced by the employee at any level, be it related to the task assigned to him or ay issue regarding the workplace. They may also be of any personal nature, but as a servant leader holds the quality of being a good listener, a servant leader still listens to it carefully. He or she understands the situation and provides the best opinion or solution to the issue. This gives rise to respect for the leader and motivation to do better and excel.
A servant leader does not only issues orders but also sets examples by practically performing that task. He sets himself at the highest value of moral character and inspires his followers by practicing his words. He proves himself to be a man of his words. Moreover, by practicing higher levels of emotional intelligence and realizing the feelings of the employees without them uttering a single word, a servant leaders garners great level of respect in the hearts of its leaders. All this combines to bring greater levels of enthusiasm and intrinsic motivation which ensures personal as well as professional growth.
Servant Leadership and employee satisfaction have been deeply linked at all levels. Servant leadership has been found to directly affect employee satisfaction along with the motivation levels. Employees working under the supervision of servant leaders have reported to be more satisfied with their jobs as compared to the employees working under the supervisor of managers practicing various other styles of leadership. Studies prove that employees have shown more happiness while working under a supervisor who is a servant leader. Employees feel more comfortable and relaxed while sharing their issues and problems regarding the assigned task, work or the workplace with a supervisor who practices the style of servant leadership. Employees feel at ease in the presence of a servant leader and easily share their personal problems especial psychological issues like work stress or family issues which might be affecting the job of the employee.
Servant leadership incites new level of motivation and helps in raising the self-esteem of the followers. It has been observed that the employees working under the leadership of an individual who practices servant leadership feel high levels of self-esteem as compared to the other employees. This self-esteem is often the result of the empowerment bestowed upon the followers or subordinates by the servant leader. As the servant leader make the follower a part of the decision-making process, it increase the level of self-esteem of the employee and the feel valued to be part of it.
Sense of Achievement
Servant leadership style helps to achieve a greater sense of achievement in the minds of the followers or the employees. As a servant leader empowers its subordinates and encourages them to actively participate in the process of decision making, it makes the employees feel valued and a useful member of the organization. It also helps in polishing their skills of decision making and gives them a chance to rectify their mistakes if any, under the guidance of their supervisor or the manager.
Considering the results of this study, it can be evidently seen that Servant Leadership has only given advantage to the organization and no negative impact has still been discovered; therefore, the organizations should focus more and more on hiring the individuals who show qualities of a servant leader. Especially while hiring the staff at higher and managerial positions, the organizations should pay special attention to the personality traits. This can be easily done by conducting personality assessment test and psychological tests. A detailed interview can also prove to be very helpful in this respect as it would help in the assessment and evaluation of various personality traits of that individual in a short span of time.
In addition to that, organizations should regular host and conduct training sessions in which awareness is imparted regarding various leadership styles. Proper light should be shed on every leadership style, and each one's positive and negative aspect should be explained. Along with that, the trainees should be equipped with the knowledge of servant leadership, its positive aspects and its constructive impact over the performance and motivation level of the employees.
In a nutshell, it can be clearly seen that the servant leadership brings many positive outcomes for an organization if implemented properly. Leaders having servant leadership style can significantly influence the employees and motivate them to perform better towards the achievement of organizational goals. In addition to this, leaders that have servant leadership styles can aid in employees remaining loyal to their organization, therefore, helping with employee retention. Moreover, servant leadership greatly impact the job performance as well as take perforce in a positive direction. A Servant leader also increases the level of motivation among its followers and keeps them charges. Also, servant leadership encourages the top leaders of the organization to include employees in their decision making which makes employees feel valued.
Greenleaf, R.K. (1997), Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, Paulist Press, New York, NY.
Heidari, M., Ghasemi, S., & Heidari, R. Relationship between Servant Leadership and Empowerment in Successful and Unsuccessful National Sport Teams of Islamic Republic of Iran
Laub, J. (1999), "Assessing the servant organization: development of the servant organizational leadership assessment (SOLA) instrument," Dissertation, Florida Atlantic University.
Le Ng, Xin & Sang Long, Choi & Soehod, Khairiah. (2016). The Effects of Servant Leadership on Employee’s Job Withdrawal Intention. Asian Social Science. 12. 99. 10.5539/ass.v12n2p99.
Liden, R. C., Wayne, S. J., Liao, C., & Meuser, J. D. (2014). Servant leadership and serving culture: Influence on individual and unit performance. Academy of Management Journal, 57(5), 1434-1452.
Mahembe, B., & Engelbrecht, A. S. (2014). The relationship between servant leadership, organizational citizenship behaviour, and team effectiveness. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 40(1), 01-10.
Shaw, J., & Newton, J. (2014). Teacher retention and satisfaction with a servant leader as principal. Education, 135(1), 101-106.
Silva, A. (2016, September). What is Leadership? [PDF]. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly.
Sokoll, S. (2014). Servant leadership and employee commitment to a supervisor. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 8(2), 88-104.
Spears, L. C. (2010). Character and servant leadership: Ten characteristics of effective, caring leaders. The Journal of Virtues & Leadership, 1(1), 25-30.
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