Servant Leadership Workplace-Disruption

Time for Some Disruptive Servant Leadership?

It might be time for some disruptive servant leadership.

At least in the United States.

As I see it, servant-leaders are often called to challenge the status quo.

Robert K. Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership. He spent 38 years working for AT&T, then one of the largest businesses on the planet. Greenleaf retired in the turbulent 1960s. In 1970, he wrote his most important essay, The Servant as Leader.

That was a disruptive time in U.S. history.

People called for change in government. People called for change in business. People called for change in the educational system. People called for change in the way we guaranteed civil rights.

In sum, people called for change in the leadership status quo.

Greenleaf’s response to that call was a very disruptive idea: that leaders should be servants first. Greenleaf described a form of leadership philosophy that was not the status quo – servant leadership. He appealed to leaders to take a big picture view of the world and act for the common good. Greenleaf called on leaders to share power and to put the growth of others as a top priority.

Greenleaf’s ideas about servant leadership were disruptive because they turned commonly held notions of leadership success upside down.

Greenleaf said true leadership was not a means to fortune and fame. Greenleaf counseled listening rather than talking, humility rather than hubris and trust rather than fear. Greenleaf denied that leadership was about getting to the top of the corporate ladder or securing a desk in a corner office.

Or winning a presidential election.

Reflecting on that desire for transformation in the 1960s, I can see some similarities in the U.S. today.

People everywhere are demanding change – change in government, change in business, change in the educational system and change in the way we guarantee civil rights, to name a few.

Moreover, people are particularly disatisfied with the federal congress and the two major presidential candidates. There seems to be some special desire within the electorate for some disruption there.

While the political debate is usually framed by policies, plans and platforms, I believe people today want a more fundamental change.

I believe people today are calling for change in the way elected leaders lead.

Do you think servant leadership could be the answer to that call?

As always, we appreciate your views.