Leadership is a practice that puts pressure on the leaders to perform at an individual level, but also one that helps leaders steer their performance towards transforming others. Good leaders communicate their vision and mission to the follows, motivate the followers and support them to ensure the collective goals are met. The manner in which a leader communicates and/ or interacts with the followers says a lot about their leadership style and the probability for success. While no particular leadership style can be said to be applicable in all circumstances and for all groups of followers, every leader has a particular leadership style that they are accustomed to, and one which satisfies their performance goals and objectives. In the interviews conducted for instance, the objective was to determine how servant leadership is applied by two different leaders through their decision making processes as well as through their interactions with others. The servant-leadership theory therefore, is explored herein within the context of the conducted interviews, to establish the relevance of the interview process and questions to that theory.
While most of the leadership theories are evident through leadership behaviors observed in the workplace, servant leadership is observed from within the leader. The most pronounced evidence of service leadership include the leader’s principles, beliefs and value systems, which shape his/ her decision making processes, communications with others and general activity in the workplace. The motivation for servant leadership originates solely from the personal values, beliefs and the principles of the leader in question and is seen through how the leader serves others in the process of moving towards organizational goals. Servant leadership therefore embodies various characteristics including conceptualization, empathy, foresight, listening and community building among others (Tischler, Giambatista, & McKeage, 2016). Various other models of servant leadership have been developed portraying the concept as a paradox rather than an oxymoron and also raising questions on whether servant leaders are born or it is a practice that can be developed. From the interviews, these were some of the traits that were under exploration as an indication of servant leadership.
The questions asked during the two interviews were aimed at establishing support for the servant leadership theory. To confirm the theory, the questions aimed at determining how the leaders handled their business vision and goals, how they focused on their goals and avoided distractions, how they handled challenges and the lessons they learnt through their businesses. For instance, the motivations behind the businesses can help to communicate the values and beliefs of the business leaders, which are the basis for the formulation of their visions and missions in business. Each of the two cases confirms servant leadership theory, through the proof that the vision for each of the leaders was informed by their personal values and beliefs. For instance, Mr. Johnson started his business because of the passion to be self employed and to employ others. Employing others is a practice in which one’s goals and visions are transferred to others who help him/ her to execute them while at the same time also gaining various benefits from the employer. Similarly, Ms. Akpan’s decision to start her business was founded on her passion for make- up. When considering how these values affected the decisions of the respective leaders, servant leadership is observable in the desire to provide good quality service at an affordable cost and to enhance and not distort natural beauty in the case of Mr. Johnson and Ms. Akpan respectively.
Similarly, the other questions also offer sufficient context in support for the servant leadership model. The position that a leader has to be ready to keep his hands dirty rather than delegating everything for instance, is sufficient evidence of the explicit perception developed about servant leadership. However, beyond this, servant leadership implies using one’s values and principles to inform decisions and actions of the leader. For a leader to be able to either delegate all responsibilities or stay in the job and keep his hands dirty depends to a large extent on the values the leader holds dear. According to Ingram (2016), servant leadership may be categorized into six scales that entail developing people, displaying leadership and authenticity, providing healing to followers, and building communities among others. For this reason, even the interviewees can be categorized into different scales of servant leadership. Ms Akpan provides servant leadership through authenticity and developing people while Mr. Johnson provides leadership through building communities and displaying the leadership. Through efforts to encourage other to pursue HAVC as a career, Mr. Johnson also shows servant leadership through building people.
Personal Understanding of the Mastery
From the interviews and independent readings on servant leadership, there was significant improvement in the personal and interpersonal mastery among the two leaders. Personal mastery in this regard can be considered to mean the set of values or principles which are applied by an individual to develop a vision and to learn. It also enables the creation of an objective world view (Hamidi, Toosi & Tapak, 2018). This could also be linked to the concept of servant leadership through the relevance of personal principles and/ beliefs in directing the path of one’s life, particularly in how they handle various aspects of growth. In the two interviews conducted, this is evidenced in the principles that shape the formulation of organizational vision and mission statements by the two individuals, as well as how they have managed to grow in fields that are not only competitive but in which they constantly need to learn new ideas. Similarly, the concept of interpersonal mastery, which is described as the understanding of management interpersonal skills can be applied to realize various management goals and objectives through engagement of other people (Beenen & Pichler, 2016). In the case of Ms Akpan, this is evident in how she interacts with others, particularly customers, to transfer her business vision to them. Similarly, Mr. Johnson’s case is a reflection of interpersonal mastery in the sense that he is able to develop strong enough relationships with others to motivate them to change their study courses.
The interview process also revealed various common themes across the two interviews. One of the most pronounced themes is the consideration of knowledge as a primary source of power and wealth is business is lucid. In the contemporary times, knowledge has to some extent replaced industrial capital such as finances as source of wealth and power in business. The intentional search for information by the two business owners is an indication of their perception of knowledge as a source of wealth. Ms Akpan reported that when she desired to start her own make up business, she searched for information and taught herself through YouTube. Similarly, Mr. Johnson reports having attained a degree in HAVC and also gaining additional knowledge through working for others. Some of those who are recruited to work with Mr. Johnson also gain interest in the field and then seek formal education to enable them work independently. The shared theme of knowledge seeking for sustainable business shows that while having industrial capital such as finances is important for business success, knowledge drives innovation and customer satisfaction in various fields.
Additionally, the two interviews also pose shared themes in the development of various thinking habits. Each of the two scenarios intertwines the concepts of constructing meaning and courageous action intricately. Entrepreneurship is a phenomenon that cannot be accomplished by the weak. Strong courage is required for one to leave the comfort of reliable income from a job to join the struggle of building one’s own income in a competitive business environment (Kerr, Kerr & Xu, 2017). Both interviewees demonstrate exceptional courage, built through formal education and working for others, and through self-education for Mr. Johnson and Ms Akpan respectively. The constant possibility of failure and their willingness to push through every day and looking forward to the best is an indication of their courage. The two are also in a constant process of knowledge seeking, as evidenced by their confessions that they try to learn continuously and to improve their customer experiences. The need to understand different methods of doing something, as communicated by Mr. Johnson is an indication of the principle of continuous learning as a thinking habit. The shared themes among these two interviews therefore, promote learning and ongoing improvement in action and decision making.
The interview process has been really thought inspiring for me as an interviewer. From the planning through to the reporting, the process has been somewhat laid out, providing multiple opportunities for learning and personal growth. I particularly think that the planning process and the design of the questions worked perfectly in communicating my leadership theory, as well as in exploring the concepts of thinking and the business driving forces. While I value the information collected from my sources, I believe I could have done better by working with more diverse respondents. I could for instance, worked with individuals who have specific long-term followers such as corporate heads, and would do that in case I have to conduct other interviews. This would give me information from more diverse perspectives and thus enrich my leadership perception even more since such leaders work in constantly changing environments and their interactions with their followers change their perceptions frequently. I would also change some of the questions to avoid asking questions that lead to information about a specific leadership style. When working with diverse groups of leaders, I would also want to collect information about diverse approaches/ styles to leadership. From this experience, I was able to learn that the interview process should be very objective. The interviewer can push for specific answers to his/ her questions, thus promoting biasness in data collection. To avoid this, working with anonymous interviewees could also help to improve the quality of data, contrary to interviewing people who are already known or even friends since the interviewer already has some preconceived ideas about the interviewee and is most likely to influence the responses. From these experiences therefore, it is possible for leaders to understand their leadership methods through introspection, asking questions about how they handle their followers and the specific methods they use in handling difficult situations.
The experience of interviewing leaders has brought forth significant lessons in my life both as an interviewer and as a potential leader. The primary lesson learnt from both interviews is that no business or leadership position remains stagnant over several years. This implies that transformation is paramount in the leadership context and the process of change itself influences the outcomes. Eliminating fear and embracing the willingness to learn is important for continuous growth in any leadership position. I have also come to understand that there are some concepts surrounding leadership that cannot be understood except through interviewing leaders. Seeing an already standing business can blind a potential entrepreneur to the challenges and self-sacrifice required to run it. However, talking to the leaders prompts thoughtful consideration of the capacity to start a business. Considering these ideas, organizations hoping to develop insightful and valuable leaders have to recognize the importance of continuous self development of the leaders. In most young people, the potential for leadership exists but cannot be exploited unless nurtured. The only way to nurture that potential is to get these leaders into contact with other leaders at the local and international level, to enable them share ideas with those leaders and to learn from them. Additionally, those young individuals who aspire to be leaders need to recognize that lifelong learning is an inescapable part of effective leadership regardless of the number of follows a leader has.
Beenen, G., & Pichler, S. (2016). A discussion forum on managerial interpersonal skills. Journal of Management Development, 35(5), 706-716. Retrieved from www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0118
Hamidi, Y., Toosi, Z., & Tapak, L. (2018). The relationship between personal mastery and organizational improving quality and productivity. Journal of Ergonomics, 6(1), 11-18. Retrieved from journal.iehfs.ir/browse.php?a_id=514&sid=1&slc_lang=en&ftxt=0
Ingram, O.C. (2016). Servant leadership as a leadership model. Journal of Management Science and Business Intelligence, 1(1), 21-26. Retrieved from www.ibii-us.org/Journals/JMSBI/V1N1/Publish/V1N1_3.pdf
Kerr, S.P., Kerr, W.R., & Xu, T. (2017). Personality traits of entrepreneurs: A review of recent literature. Harvard Business School, Working Paper 18-047. Retrieved from www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/18-047_b0074a64-5428-479b-8c83-16f2a0e97eb6.pdf
Tischler, S., Giambatista, R., & McKeage, R. (2016). Servant leadership and its relationships with core self-evaluation and job satisfaction. The Journal of Values Based Leadership, 9(1). Retrieved from pdfs.semanticscholar.org/dfb1/048d7093c5494c3a7312f7b232e56dcfef57.pdf