After studying William E. Dimorier for more than a decade, I concluded that his life could be summed up as follows: Service to others is worthwhile, even if unrecognized. It took me a while to finesse the thesis to that level, but it seemed that there was an even better way to express it. With a little more research, I found the perfect term: servant leadership. Here are seven things to know about servant leadership.
- Robert K. Greenleaf, a retired AT&T executive, coined the servant-leader term in a 1969 paper, “The Servant as Leader.” This came about after Greenleaf observed that college students seemed to have lost hope in their leaders.
- The servant leader starts with a desire to serve others, which grows into aspiration to lead. This is opposite from those who begin with a desire to lead in order to achieve power or acquire material things.
- Servant leaders create strong organizations without the need to coerce. They persuade their followers with a “gentle non-judgmental argument that a wrong should be righted by individual voluntary action.”
- The servant leader’s first response to any problem is listening. One must not be intimidated by silence.
- To rebuild community in an institutionalized world, mass movements are not needed. A sense of community can be accomplished if enough servant leaders show the way by freely serving their own community groups.
- Servant leaders know what the goal is and can articulate it clearly to those who have difficult achieving it. They are willing to take the risk of failure along with those who follow them.
- Servant leaders are likely to find joy in their own lives. They do not need to seek joy. They accept that the world is part good and part bad, and they identify with the good.
So there you have it, just seven of many things to know about servant leaders. To learn more, you might wish to look into the following organizations:
Ann Silverthorn writes about a wide variety of topics in numerous genres. She recently completed a biography of William E. Dimorier (1871-1951), a poet and educator, who dedicated his life to service and leadership. Several new projects are underway.