The idea of the servant as leader (developed by Robert Greenleaf) came out of reading Hermann Hesse’s Journey to the East. In this story, we see a band of men on a mythical journey… The central figure of the story is Leo, who accompanies the party as the servant who does their menial chores, but who also sustains them with his spirit and his song. He is a person of extraordinary presence. All goes well until Leo disappears. Then the group falls into disarray and the journey is abandoned. They cannot make it without the servant Leo. The narrator, one of the party, after some years of wandering, finds Leo and is taken into the Order that had sponsored the journey. There he discovers that Leo, whom he had known first as servant, was in fact the titular head of the Order, its guiding spirit, a great and noble leader.
The 10 Characteristics of Servant Leaders are: Listening, Empathy, Healing, Awareness, Persuasion, Conceptualisation, Foresight, Stewardship, Commitment to the growth of others, and Building community. Yes! ten times over.
Thanks to Ian Miller for his post nurse as servant-leader which inspired me to delve into the thinking of Robert Greenleaf and others who have developed his vision and out-of-the-box thinking on leadership.
As Ian says, Servant leadership is not a position to be bestowed or awarded by your peers, it cannot even be earned, but rather it is a quality of recognition, returned to you as a gift from those you serve.
Brilliant! Let us aspire to serve thus, with no expectation of reward or recognition.