Weekly Thought Archives > Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership


When I came into business, more then 60 years ago, I began to read the Harvard Review published by the Harvard Business School. I remember that Mr. Robert T. Greenleaf from AT&T wrote an article called “Skyhooks” – it became one of the most highly read articles. He was the first man that I knew who tackled a spiritual theme in business. He introduced an idea in 1970 called “servant leadership.” Max DePree, Steven Covey and Ken Blanchard are among those who have popularized the concept in the last two decades.


I believe very much that it is a biblical principle if we clearly understand the difference between the spirit and the function. Some leaders have taken it to mean that they were to take menial jobs in their organizations—such as turning the lights off at night. I knew one executive during the depression who would take incoming envelops, split them and use them for scratch paper. This is not servant leadership.


To me the executive must maintain the leadership function with the attitude of serving. In the classic organizational form it was depicted as a pyramid. The lowest paid were at the bottom and the CEO was at the pinnacle. I like the idea of turning the organization upside down.  The CEO still bears more responsibility and receives higher compensation but he carries the organization rather than riding it.


The CEO sacrifices his ego to the organization rather then deriving ego satisfaction from the organization. Christ washed the disciple’s feet once to illustrate his humility but I do not think he would have taken this up as a daily function.


Servant leadership is not demeaning, nor is it demanding….it is designed to nurture the organization as a stewardship to accomplish and achieve to the benefit of all.


This week think about: 1) What is my definition of servant leader? 2) Who effectively models this for me? 3) How can I maintain a servant’s spirit without jeopardizing my leadership function?