Servant leadership is a leadership model that prioritizes service to others and the sharing of power in the decision-making process. The model of servant leadership was introduced by Robert K. Greenleaf way back in 1970. The servant leadership model is both a practical and theoretical leadership model that has its critics and supporters.
Servant leadership as a model of leadership is a social science that requires empirical validation through modern scientific research and study. Empirical validation of leadership models enables them to be translated into practical functional leadership models that can be applied in the average organization (Smith 7). Smith further argues that the main criticism of the model of servant leadership is based on the fact that servant leadership is mainly based on philosophical theory thus lacking proper empirical validation and substantiation (7). Servant leadership as a model of leadership is systematically ambiguous and lacking in proper empirical support, therefore, calling for more research on the model (Smith 8). Most critics argue that servant leadership is anti-feminist and very religious. Servant leadership is purely based on religious philosophy that not only encourages androcentric patriarchal rules but also perpetuates a masculine-feminine political economy. Moreover, servant leadership is largely religious and spiritual and therefore has a potential for conflicting with the spiritual beliefs of individuals. The criticisms of the servant leadership model are on point as the model is largely based on religious underpinnings and lack concrete empirical studies to back it.
Servant leadership as a model of leadership is largely supported due to its spiritual and moral underpinnings which emphasize the importance of individual, organizational and societal needs. Servant leadership is concerned with the motivation of individuals and therefore addresses the natural weaknesses of individuals working in organizations (Smith 8). Through service-oriented leadership servant leadership eliminates the numerous power traps that belie leaders such as excessive pride and self-interested actions that negatively impact productivity. Smith argues that servant leadership offers a holistic approach to individuals as it not only addresses individuals’ economic needs but also their spiritual needs too. The contemporary corporate environment is characterized by numerous layoffs, corporate scandals that imposes unwarranted pressures on the ordinary employee. Servant leadership provides a leadership model and is grounded on a strong moral and ethical base that guarantees the psychological stability of employees. The arguments made by Smith, in support of servant leadership are valid as servant leadership is based on service which promotes self-actualization and promotion of employee’s interests.
The leadership model of servant leadership is often compared with transformational leadership. The two models of leadership are closely related though different. Transformational leadership is concerned with the achievement of an organization’s objectives while servant leadership focuses more on the development and self-actualization of employees and followers (Smith 9). I find the theory comparison done by Carol Smith, quite comprehensive as he looks at similarities and differences between the two theories and provides practical examples of where the two theories can be best applies for maximum productivity.
Servant leadership is a valid approach that promotes the development and actualization of employees in contemporary organizations. Servant leadership also has a strong spiritual and ethical foundation that ensures that workers are not only humanly treated but also valued. I was previously employed in a beauty company that employed the servant leadership model and got to experience the workings of servant leadership firsthand. The organization organized numerous development and training opportunities for its staff and created a free environment where workers’ thoughts and contributions were valued and taken seriously. The experience I had as an employee under the servant leadership model informs my decision to adopt servant leadership for myself.
Smith, Carol. “Servant leadership: The leadership theory of Robert K. Greenleaf.” Management Information Organization 12.2 (2005): 1-17.