J.A. Laub (1999), in his unpublished dissertation, describes servant leadership. ”Servant leadership… places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader. Servant leadership promotes the valuing and development of people, the building of community, the practice of authenticity, the providing of leadership for the good of those led…” These ideas were shared at the YNPN, greater Buffalo Summit, Building 21st Century Leaders for the Common Good, held at Canisius College.
One speaker, Mr. Dennis Walczyk, MPSSc, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities, spoke of the qualities we expect from leaders. His focus was on servant leadership, a concept introduced to us by R.K. Greenleaf in 1977. Servant leadership is inclusive, responsive and promotes the growth of others. Leaders look beyond themselves to support and nurture others without the expectation of acknowledgement. To lead in this way, Greenleaf focuses on the personal skills of leaders such as listening, communication and persuading.
Servant leaders create an organizational culture which is different than that of transformational leaders. Transformational leaders motivate through mission ideals to help organizations survive in a challenging environment. Servant leadership places at the forefront spiritual and moral principles by facilitating members in their personal growth.
Paul Schmitz of the Huffington Post reminds us of the life and accomplishments of Richard Murphy, whose life was an example of servant leadership. Richard Murphy served others in many ways, focusing on grassroots community building. For example, he founded the Rheedlen Center for Children and Families, now known as the Harlem Children’s Zone and helped to create an emergency youth hotline.
There are many examples of servant leaders, many we will never read about, hear about or know of their individual work. After all, servant leaders do not announce their good works nor do they seek acknowledgement for the work they do. Rather servant leaders leave a legacy with the benefit they help create for those they serve. We can all learn from the example that servant leaders provide for us. We are all nurtured and developed by such individuals. We can all give back to continue this leadership process. We can begin by giving of ourselves.