In many situations we are able to draw associations or determine one situation resembles another. When individuals in leadership roles give of themselves so that others may have it is often associated with a negative connotation. Although giving and serving is not viewed in the political or religious aspect, leaders tend to develop their own views and formulate ideas that have been tampered with by politician or religious leaders. Many of the political and religious leaders have a major influence of the day-to-day operation and views of society.
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We first have to know what leadership is. Leadership is the ability to get other to follow you willingly. A leader must have a vision and know exactly where to go. They also have to take the vision and act upon it and not sit back and let the followers do all the work. Within the vision, they have to communicate with their followers to the point that they are with the vision as well. It also takes dedication to be a leader. They have to do whatever it takes to make sure that they can get to the next step of the vision. There are more qualities but this is some of what take to be a leader.
Now, what is servant leadership? Robert K. Greenleaf describes servant leadership as a type of leader that serves others, rather than the followers serving the leader. Doing so will have the followers achieve and improve. As any leader, they are responsible for the followers and those that are not on the same level as others. The people served grow as individuals, becoming ‘healthier, wiser, more autonomous and more likely themselves to become servants’ (Greenleaf, 1977). There are 10 characteristics that will be briefly discussed:
Listening – being able to hear what your follower have to say about how they feel in certain situations is very important.
Empathy – being able to show empathy for your followers, even when some will not accept some views from their co-workers. This will help take more difficult situations
Healing – healing means a process when something or someone takes time to repair themselves. As a leader, you have to acknowledge the good and the bad situations in life while being able to do well (spiritual).
Awareness – the leader have to be aware (or in other words, constant communication) of the surroundings of themselves and others that follow them.
Persuasion – being able to convince and inspire your followers that the vision that you have for the group will benefit not just for the internal (the group), but the external as well (the company to the clients).
Conceptualization – with the vision at hand, the leader have to think beyond the current goal. They have to see the big picture. They have to have ideas and plans to figure out any problems that may occur.
Foresight – in order to develop this characteristic effectively, the leader have to be able to analyze any situation and have a great amount of discernment when it comes to decision making. There would be times that the “powers that be” will expect the leader to complete some tasks that may not suit too well with the leader. Foresight will help the leader to come to a sensible conclusion that will satisfy both their bosses and their followers.
Stewardship – leaders are stewards first. To become a great leader, they have to be a great follower. Although leading the people, their goal is to serve others. This trait is used continuously with pastors that lead the church.
Commitment to the growth of people – in order for the world to recognize the changes, the leader must first change themselves. If you are not able to change for the better, whatever changes that are made may not be accepted.
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Building community – the community is not completely healed. Leaders have to take proper actions to help make the community better and not just healed, but to be made whole. One way to do this is by simply being active in the community and show an example that teamwork is very effective when you work together.
Servant leadership is heavily influenced by the Christian faith. All Christians are called to be servants, even when you are called to be a leader. In order to be a leader, you had to be a good and obedient servant in order for God to call you higher in ministry. Jesus showed a great example of servant leadership when he washed the feet of the disciples. He also showed us that we need to put aside our personal gain and makes sacrifices to fulfill the needs of others. You have other that will would climb up the ladder and only motivate themselves and not help others. This is something that Jesus did not demonstrate throughout his ministry.
The Hinduism religion exemplified servant leadership. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the political and spiritual leader of India. He used the ahimsa philosophy which means “total nonviolence.” He was known to tell the truth and encourage those who followed him to do the same. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that Gandhi was indeed an example of a person that showed servant leadership because Gandhi was not all about him and trying to control the people of India, but to serve them so they can recognize their dignity and power. Even through the process of gaining independence from Great Britain, Gandhi gave India hope that this vision can come true. He never claimed himself as a leader but became a catalyst to many Hindu leaders after him.
The Islam religion also exemplified servant leadership. The prophet Mohammad said this about servant leadership:
A ruler who has been entrusted with the affairs of the Muslims, but makes no endeavor for their material and moral upliftment and is not sincerely concerned for their welfare will not enter Paradise along with them. (Al-Bukhari, 1997, p.166)
Mohammad wanted to show the people that the servant is the leader of the nation, not the leader. Islam’s concept of servant leadership is serving the workers and the community as their main priority. Like Christians, Islam want to provide services to others, to be an integral part of the community and to further understand their spiritual side of their organizations.
A couple of years ago, the past moderator from the Eastern Shore Virginia/Maryland Baptist Association wanted to do something that will help families that could not afford anything (food, toys, clothes) for Christmas. He called it “Christmas Without Walls.” As an example of the characteristic stewardship, he took it upon himself to buy turkeys, toys and clothes to help these families in his area in order for them to have a better Christmas then they had years before. This led the church to follow his example and they too started to donate items to the less fortunate. In the last couple of years, they were able to bless more than 300 families and looking to do more this year now that other churches are joining to do the same in their own communities. He also showed another characteristic of building communities as becoming an example to show that once you put out, others will follow and together we all can do anything.
To model yourself as a leader from a servant leadership approach, self awareness is important. You have to know your own strengths and weaknesses, what inspires you, what motivates you, and how you relate to others. This will allow you to give more of yourself to others when it comes to relationships as this will build up your self esteem and confidence. Emotional intelligence allows you to evaluate others’ emotions as well as your own. As a result, you understand yourself, your goals, intentions, responses, and behavior. This also led to understanding others and their feelings. Being able to understand other people’s feelings mean that you care about their values and beliefs, even when some of theirs do not agree with your own (this is an empathy characteristic of servant leadership). It do not matter on the religion but no how we treat others in general. Our beliefs may be from a religion but we are given free will on how we treat others. If you are able to put self aside and help others, you will be showing an example to others and will follow you and even inherit your ways.