Servant leadership: the importance of trading power for influence.

Author:Nehr, Jerry
Position:Leadership CENTRAL

As a member of the Detroit Regional Chamber, you are no doubt called upon to lead others on a regular basis. Your employees and the community at large rely on you to guide them through the daily regimen of "business as usual." Your position as a business leader in this region impacts thousands, maybe even millions of people.

Who you hire, who you fire, who you promote, the customers you target to sell your products and services to and the money your company spends reach far beyond your customer database and your annual report. You have at your disposal the ability to affect the lives of many, both within your organization and outside of it.

How are you wielding that responsibility? In what manner do you navigate the ship that so many others, and yourself, rely upon to pay the bills and, hopefully, enjoy the work you do? What kind of leadership do you offer them? Do you guide, mentor and teach them? Or do you boss, manage and oversee them? Most importantly, how do they see you?

Servant Leadership (SL) is about influence. It is not about power. It is about the old saying of "attracting more people with honey than with vinegar." Servant Leadership fosters growth, autonomy, stewardship, freedom and wisdom in those being led, as opposed to stifling, controlling and criticizing their every action.

Servant Leadership is a phrase coined by the late scholar and businessman Robert Greenleaf, who died in 1990. In 1970, at the age of 66, he published his first essay on Servant Leadership entitled "The Servant as Leader." Since then, numerous books and articles have been published on this subject. Many organizations have also bought into the SL philosophy in their daily business operations. Southwest Airlines, TDIndustries and former Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson all incorporate SL ideals with their personnel.

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

This is quite different from some of the things we see going on in business today. Television programs such as "The Apprentice" reward and glorify cold-heartedness, deceit and duplicity. Various Fortune 500 executives have, in the last year or two, sought to amass their wealth in less than admirable...

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