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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Vasilca

Mysteries of Leadership - Third Principle -What is Servant Leadership?

This post takes the discussion about the third principle of leadership a step further by addressing the question "What is servant leadership?"

As a refresher, The Third Principle of Leadership is also called Your Core Knowledge. It states that you cannot be a leader of men if you do not have adequate expertise in your trade, profession, or other activity areas. An military officer cannot lead his troops unless he's is very knowleageable in the science and art of war. A pastor cannot be a good servant leader if he's not, first of all, a good pastor.

Besides possessing professional knowledge, however, an aspiring leader must also study the art of leadership. This endeavor requires the acquision ot theoretical know-how, information, facts and data from the vast fields of psychology, human relations, history and principles of leadership, time management, behavioral sciences, etc.


Jesus washes feet of disciple
Jesus as Servant Leader


On Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is the highest form of leadership because it fuses the leader with his followers in an unbreakable manner. Jesus Christ is portrayed as the most-high servant leader whose role model is for all to follow. However, the secular world aslo offers great examples of servant leaders as we will see further down.

The Biblical View

Jesus Christ was not only the first servant leader, but he was also the first sacrificial leader. Jesus submitted his own life to sacrificial service under the will of God, and he surrendered it freely out of benefit for others. Although he was God's Son and thus more potent than any other king in the world, he came to serve the lowly and the undeserving. Thus, his role as a divine servant. Not only that, but Jesus also healed the sick, drove out demons, was recognized as Teacher and Lord, and had power over the wind and the sea, and even over death. Therefore, his qualities as a divine leader.

We all know the famous scripture passage (John 13;12-7) in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.

Why did Jesus do that?

• To show that his essential motivation for service was the love for his followers.

• To impress upon his disciples that he voluntarily became a servant to them. Jesus did not come down from heaven primarily as their foot washer, but he was ready to do this service for his followers.

• Jesus was fully aware of his position as leader. Before his disciples watched him wash their feet in astonishment, they had experienced him many times before as Master and a strong and mighty leader. By contrasting these two extreme roles, Jesus wanted to set an example for his disciples to follow.

By combining the attributes of a servant with those of a divine leader, Jesus becomes the Most High Servant Leader for all to see and follow. From his teachings and example, we learn that a servant leader, in the most general sense, means being three things at once:

(i) A leader who submits himself to a higher purpose.

(ii) A voluntary servant who, out of love, serves others' needs before his own.

(iii) A teacher who teaches his followers.

women connecting emotionally
Emotional Connection = Emotional Intelligence

Servant Leadership - the Secular View

In the secular world, Robert K. Greenleaf was the founder of the modern servant leadership movement. The phrase servant leadership was coined by him in an essay first published in 1970.1 In that essay, Greenleaf said:

"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first. Then, conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead… The best test, and most difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?"

Currently, the work started by Robert Greenleaf is continued at the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership located in South Orange, NJ.

As we can see from above, servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the leader's central role is to serve. Instead of the people working to help the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. This statement contrasts with the traditional leadership approach, where the leader's primary focus is the thriving of their organization.

Servant leadership represents a model of leadership that is both inspirational and contains moral safeguards. Sometimes, servant leadership is described in terms of altruism, self-sacrifice, transformation, authenticity, or spiritual energy exchange between the leader and the members.

Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership

In their book titled, The Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership, first published in 2009, authors James Sipe and Don Frick identify seven essential attributes of practitioners of servant leadership. Let's review them quickly.

Pillar I Harmonious Character

The servant leader's moral character is the critical element that defines him and provides him with the moral authority to serve and lead his associates. It is a character harmoniously developed in all human nature dimensions; therefore, it is a Diamond Soul Character. And one of the essential traits of character that these people must possess is humility.

Pillar II Put People First

Servant leaders are people-persons: they relate very well to others and place other individuals first in their outlook on life. They have a gift for listening with their heart to understand the emotional construct of other people deeply. Thus, they can offer competent advice and healing solutions to people's problems. Servant leaders focus on people's professional and personal growth, thus creating more servant leaders who, in turn, help build thriving communities of service-oriented leaders.

Pillar III Skilled Communicators

Servant leaders are talented and skilled communicators who use these skills to understand others' emotional needs empathically. They also know how to persuade people by using emotional appeals and logical arguments. They can articulate complex concepts in simple words to make them accessible to everyone.

Pillar IV Compassionate Collaborators

Servant leaders are compassionate, considerate, and willful collaborators who want to develop the potential they see in each associate. They are less concerned about their associates' apparent shortcomings, knowing quite well that they can redress such deficiencies by adopting a new mental paradigm.

Pillar V Have Foresight

Foresight is the rare gift of leaders who can learn from the past, understand the present, and visualize the future. Foresight is more a talent that comes with experience than a skill that can be acquired, although it can be enhanced and honed through self-awareness and practice.

Pillar VI Are Holistic Thinkers

Holistic thinkers look at the internal and external world as inter-related realities that act and react upon each other, thus creating an ever-evolving complex system. Such a dynamic system needs to be regarded and understood in a particular way, much differently from less complicated systems.

Pillar VII Exercise Moral Authority

The authority of the servant leader does not come from a position of power but his moral authority. In doing so, he creates trust, which in turn makes accountability.

Emotional Intelligence

Did you ask yourself why so many smart people you know fail so often in their careers and lives? Why do professionally competent individuals have trouble managing others and collaborating on a team? Why do most of the brightest people not succeed in becoming true leaders? It is not because they lack intelligence or professional skills, far from it. They cannot understand, control, and manage their own emotions and others'. Being smart is one necessary condition for becoming an effective leader, but it's not sufficient. The other requirement is to develop an adequate level of emotional intelligence.

Let's look first at what does it mean to be smart or intelligent. Smarts or intelligence refers to a person's capacity to acquire and use knowledge and skills effectively. Or the ability to think and reason abstractly. For over a century, science has developed fairly accurate tools to measure the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of people, and a broad and reliable body of data exists on these topics. By definition, a person's IQ is the total score derived from several standardized tests, relative to the average performance of others of the same age group.

hands holding a brain bubble each
Smarts and Emotional Intelligence

In contrast to the Intelligent Quotient, which has been in use for a long time, the emotional quotient (EQ) is a relatively new term used by Dan Goleman in his 1995 best-seller titled Emotional Intelligence 1. Emotional intelligence is defined as one's ability to:

• Recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions.

• Identify, understand. and influence the emotions of others.

In practical terms, this means being aware that emotions will drive behavior and impact people. It means learning how to control and manage those emotions, especially under pressure. But above all, emotional intelligence means loving other people, feeling for other people, and caring for other people. Emotional intelligence means, therefore, having a very generous Big Heart.

Leadership Needs Plenty of EQ and Some IQ

Understanding the concept of emotional intelligence will make all the difference in how you know, train for, and deal with difficult situations. This is especially true when you are in a leadership position or aspire to become a true leader. Scratch the surface of a leader to look beneath their personality, and you'll find character.

If we examine carefully the attributes associated with leadership, we will recognize plenty of items related to emotional intelligence and very few linked to the person's rational intelligence. For instance, fairness, courage, selflessness, passion, benevolence, and compassion are not attributes of one's analytical left-side brain activities or intelligence; instead, they belong to the brain's emotional right side. Does this mean that leaders can be dumb people? Of course not; it merely says that the IQ level takes a secondary position relative to EQ emotional intelligence. This is a radical departure from the prevailing view of the past, which held that leaders must be one hundred percent reason and zero heart.

The good news is that emotional intelligence is a personality trait that can be learned, developed, and mastered. It is like a muscle that you must exercise every day to grow and keep it in top shape. In other words, if you want to have a Big Heart, you must work on it every day. You must start with the awareness of the topic, then a curiosity to learn more about it, followed by the determination to get good at it and practice it in your daily life.

You don't have to be a high-profile leader to put your Big Heart to proper use. If you use it consistently in your everyday life – be it in family, personal, professional relationships, or business settings - you will be amazed at how well it serves you. As a matter of fact, you already know the principles of self-awareness, self-leadership, and self-management from my first book on the Diamond Soul Character. They are all EQ-based, aren't they? Equally, so is with the principles of empathic listening, speaking with passion, and creative cooperation, which will be discussed in one of the upcoming posts.


Buy the DS2 book titled Seven Principles of Super-Effective Leadership on Amazon in printed or electronic format.

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