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Sage Advice: Servant-Leadership

Calling All Women

The term servant-leadership was first coined in a 1970 essay by Robert K. Greenleaf, entitled The Servant as Leader. Greenleaf spent most of his organizational life in the field of management research, development, and education at AT&T. Following a 40-year career at AT&T, Greenleaf enjoyed a second career that lasted 25 years, during which time he served as an influential consultant to a number of major institutions, including Ohio University, MIT and Ford Foundation. In 1964 he also founded the Center for Applied Ethics, which was renamed the Robert K. Greenleaf Center in 1985.

The words servant and leader are usually thought of as being opposites. When two opposites are brought together in a creative and meaningful way, a paradox emerges. And so the words servant and leader have been brought together to create the paradoxical idea of servant-leadership. The basic idea is both logical and intuitive. Since the time of the industrial revolution, managers have tended to view people as objects; institutions have considered workers as cogs within a machine. In the past few decades we have witnessed a shift toward the ideas put forward by Robert Greenleaf, Stephen Covey, Peter Senge, Margaret Wheatley, Ken Blanchard, and many others who suggest that there is a better way to lead and manage our organizations.

Lowe’s is currently rolling out company-wide Servant-Leadership Training with Ken Blanchard Company for their 1700 U.S. stores. On a fast track to become a Purpose Driven Company, identifying “Hindering Behaviors” and “Helping Behaviors” is critical to the process. Their motto is “Helping you love where you live” and each employee is trained to offer a customer-centric experience.

9 Qualities of the Servant Leader
1: Values diverse opinions
2: Cultivates a culture of trust
3: Develops other leaders
4: Helps people with life issues
5: Encourages
6: Sells instead of tells
7: Thinks you, not me
8: Thinks long-term
9: Acts with humility

C.S. Lewis defines humility as “Not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”. This wisdom is certainly in sync with servant-leadership. The practice of Servant-Leadership has had a profound and growing effect on many.

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