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Leadership of a country or organization is the primary determinant of its success and prosperity. The leadership skills are diverse and of different perception. The leaders may choose to place their interests first while others place the subject’s interest as their priority. Those who first consider their subjects have been termed as servant leaders as they tend to serve rather than to rule.
Ancient and modern scholars from all over the world have played a significant role in determining the kind of leadership that people should have. They have done this through their writing, which has always played a vital role in educating of the citizens. Along their writing, they have come up with several philosophies and principles of leadership which have been widely adopted to bring change and a difference in the society. The philosophy of servant leadership is one of them (Greenleaf and Spears 2002).
The servant leadership according to several scholars is the type of leadership where the leader gives priority to the needs of the colleagues, companions and the subjects. The leaders go ahead to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the organizations. The general characteristic of such leaders is their distinguished humility and the fact that they are the lifeline of their organizations. Their leadership is characterized by intensive consultation and coordinated teamwork. The leaders are always there to make the first step towards any risk as they lead by example. In the advance stages of this kind of leadership, there is devolution of powers and the citizens enjoy their democratic space with minimum interference (Mai and Akerson 2003).
The abuse of resources has been the greatest factor that undermines most of the leadership systems in the world. Presidents have been voted out due to corruption while organizational leaders have been sacked forced to resign, and others jailed due to financial scandals in their leadership arenas. Rarely has this happened in a servant leadership system. The leaders in this system have been known to be the best managers of human, financial and even physical resources whose control and administration fall within their dockets (Agosto 2005). They are known to be development conscious and believers of strong integrity and reputation. They consult with their juniors on any projects to be implemented and are always open and transparent in their dealings.
The spiritual understanding of the leaders serves as a tool and platform of association. They are always particularly keen to listen and understand their subjects and juniors feelings. This makes them determine the potential of everyone in their circles and helps them achieve their goals and objectives (Bennis and Nanus 2012). The servant leaders are always guided by the law and clear observation of the set mission, vision and a set of existing objectives.
Characteristics of Servant Leaders
The main characteristics defining servant leaders have been outlined by various scholars. The characteristics seem to be the daily social norms expected to be part of every man’s life. Listening and empathy are viewed in every society as virtues that make the human life easy painless and enjoyable. This is because every person wants their opinion to be heard and understood. The listening of the subjects and juniors opinions and understanding their feelings by the leader is considered the best aspect of team work. This allows for quality decision making and conflict resolution. It makes the employee or the subject feel that they are part of the organization and its programs. This serves to empower them psychologically (Dierendonck and Patterson 2010).
Commitment of the leaders encourages the citizens or employees to be committed as well. The leader at all times serves as the role model and should always lead from the front. The time management skills and the desire to achieve goals of the leaders are always noted. In this effect, it is upon the leader to display the best (Hakhoe 2003).
The association of people in every community will always lead to conflicts among its members. Failure to solve the minor problem amicably always results to a wide spread violence and conflict in the wider society or organization. The impacts of such conflicts can be devastating to the wider body and its leadership. This equips the leader with new responsibilities of conflict management, resolution and initiating of a healing process (Beazley 2003). This can only be possible when the leader is positive about the society and wants to see a peaceful co-existence among their subjects. The non servant leaders will always apply the ‘divide and rule’ philosophy to help them hold on to power.
The ability of a leader to foresee and plan ahead is always the strong point among the citizens and colleagues. To plan, the leader needs to be critical and concerned with the subjects who will otherwise bear the blunt of failed systems in the future. This is a noble ability only undertaken in true faith by a servant leader who does it without taking advantage of the vulnerable citizens. Leaders of such capacity have always been known to help their subjects avert disasters, financial crisis and outbreaks. Those who did that have remained in the minds and hearts of the people and their actions are encoded in the books of history. They are such people like Nelson Mandela and Dag Hammersk Jold (Fryar 2001).
The principles of each leader are the binding factor for every society. True leaders with the people’s feelings and needs in their minds will always advocate for peace and development. The leaders will ill motives on the other hand will sabotage democracy, lead their people to civil war and oppress their opponent. They will divide their communities along defined lines and set reasons. Servant leaders as established will bring people together taking their diversity as part of heritage and difference as a source of pride. They will make people believe that it is their differences that will bring development and the required unity for prosperity (Sipe and Frick 2009).
The ability of such leaders to overcome the influence from those close to them is what makes all this characters and abilities come true and appear real. The skills making up a servant leader are not inborn but rather attained through practice and training (Bela Benathy). The ability of any leader to become a dictator or a servant of the people solely depends on the leader’s decisions (Reynolds 2002).
The interview was aimed at getting the opinion of a practicing leader on servant leadership. I was able to interview Sir. Richard Branson, the founder and chairman of Virgin Group of Companies. He was precise and direct to the point. I preferred Branson after putting into account his business achievements which are a proof of his ability to coordinate team work and leadership skills and his profound reputation on his abilities to associate with people within and outside his business circles. The interview lasted for about thirty minutes. It was easy to appoint the interview, especially with my student status identity. My assurance to take the minimum time possible also proved valuable bait (Wallace 2011).
Me: Sir. Richard, welcome for the interview on servant leadership.
Sir. Richard: Thank you very much.
Me: To start with, what do you understand by the term servant leadership?
Sir. Richard: In my opinion, I think this is a kind of leadership where the leader stands for the needs of the people and makes the necessary sacrifice to meet the same.
Me: Do you think that type of leadership can be achieved today?
Sir. Richard: Comfortably, it is so much possible to achieve it. It is upon the leaders to make the decision. They just need to choose to lead instead of to rule; it does not require any energy, just sacrifice.
Me: How would you determine whether one is a servant leader or not?
Sir. Richard: It is easy to determine what kind of a leader is by simply observing their characters and listening to them. The true servant will always listen and share positively. The true leader will be optimistic and will give non partisan opinions. They always regard their and other people’s dignity. They have time for everyone, not necessary friends or relatives but all people. They want and work for development. That is the difference with the non servants.
Me: Do you think the current leaders have the capacity to serve as servants of the people?
Sir Richard: Some have and others don’t have. The world is a place for different leaders, different countries, organizations and companies. Some are dictators while others are liberals. You cannot generalize all leaders as either able or unable.
Me: As a successful entrepreneur, what are the leadership traits that you value when dealing with employees?
Sir Richard: Dealing with employees can sometimes be tricky concerning several terms and different grounds. You need to communicate your ideas and at the same time and platform retain your position and dignity as the manager of operations. At this particular point, you have to be patient but firm. You also need to be honest with your feelings so as to ensure that the point gets to the employees heart and makes a difference. Humility makes you come to the employees’ level and enable you come to their point of reasoning. This will always help in averting conflicts, which may lead to mistrust.
Me: What do you think are the advantages of involving employees in decision making?
Sir Richard: The employees are the bridge between the business and the clients. They understand what the clients want. They are there to get the clients complains and are expected to give solutions. They also understand the challenge of the company in relation to other companies. They hear the clients compare the business services with others. They have the responsibility of giving that information to the business if there are any changes to be made. Their participation in the decision making process will give them the chance to propose these facts. The business will finally benefit. Their contribution cannot be ignored.
Me: Are there times that you do not involve the employees in decision making?
Sir. Richard: Any decision made must involve the employees. It may not be direct, but their views offered in the past about the same have to be considered.
Me: What are the differences between managers and leaders?
Sir Richard: There are not many differences, only the one. The leaders lead, the managers rule. Leading means being the first one to do whatever it is being done. It means taking the biggest risk, thus,being a servant leader means getting your hands dirty to have the job done. One has to show the others how it is done. The managers are there to manage, they do not create. They implement what has been created. They have no experience in whatever it is being done and end up blaming others for the failures. They do not take any risk.
Me: Is there a process of moving from being a manager to becoming a leader within an organization?
Sir. Richard: Definitely there is. It is all about an individual. The first thing is the change of attitude towards other people. The way you view your colleagues, juniors and managers from other organizations determines whether you will move or not. Although it will take time to change this, it is still highly possible. I also tend to think that the company, organization or whatever body that such an individual comes from should be supportive in terms of training, moral and social support to its employees at all levels. It helps change the perspective in which the employees view the entity. They should not view it as an independent body employing them but an entity where they belong. They should feel responsible for all operations in the firm (Martin 2006).
Me: Thank you very much for your time Sir. Richard. I will contact you in the future for more information. I appreciate your contribution.
Sir. Richard: You are welcome. I also appreciate your quest for knowledge.
The literature in the books about servant leadership compared to Sir Richard Branson’s opinion on the same shows a lot of similarities and a few differences. The issue of involving the juniors and the subjects in decision making seems to be the key, strong point in achieving any tangible development. They all agree that such a move makes the junior feel that they are part of the organization and feel obligated to protect its interests. This is what many people would call loyalty. The outcome of improved loyalty is improved performance which ensures the firm’s development and existence in the future (Blanchard 2003).
The issue of teamwork can not be ignored. It forms the strong point of any firm which observes professionalism and is aimed at any tangible development. The leader in both cases has been portrayed as the one responsible for initiating this kind of association. This comes out portrayed in a different dimension ranging from clear and straight communication lines to conflict resolution and consensus building at the work place. The leader has to be fair, just, and none biased to achieve this (Rowitz 2003). They have to shed away their personal feelings and interests to be able to associate with people of different personalities and attitudes. They have to put in mind that not all people think like them and have to make personal sacrifices wherever possible and necessary.
Humility, ability to listen and empathy are the virtues that every servant leader must portray at all levels of their association. The virtues enable them to put their colleagues and juniors interests into consideration and take time to reflect on their abilities and failures in a more positive way (Bornschier 1994). This way, it becomes easy to establish talents and make use of the advantage of both the firm and the individual. This improves the performance of the whole team leading to high levels of performance. They all agree that the employees’ attitude is always reflected in the client due to the quality of service offered. It also helps reduce the rate of internal conflict may which may end up undermine the whole firms image (Edwin and Lynn 1994).
Leadership is not just about being at the helm of the firm but about active participating in all activities of the firm and showing others how things are done. Personal sacrifices must form part of the leader’s skills, as they have to lead by example. The leader who does this does not only motivate the juniors but also makes them have a different perception about the firm and its clients.