The Grey Chronicles


Understanding Servant Leadership: Postscript

In his Reflections on Leadership published in University of Toledo Law Review, Robert H. Jerry II (2007: 541—542) writes:

“[A] leader must set the example the leader wants others to follow; a leader must listen to the ideas of others because no leader has all the right answers, and others in the organization often have better ideas; a leader must be comfortable delegating authority because, beyond the fact that effective management requires delegation, an institution will grow stronger if others work with the leader to carry out the leader’s vision; an effective leader sets standards for subordinates, and then allows them to do their jobs; a leader is able to tolerate mistakes, but a leader is also intolerant of repeated mistakes and is able to deliver discipline for repeated errors; in this connection, a leader can be intolerant when it is appropriate to be so, as is the case when the leader encounters sloppiness, inattention, or chronic ineffectiveness; a leader must be able to recognize and reward the meritorious; a leader works toward consensus and getting everyone to pull in the same direction; and a leader must be decisive, thereby avoiding the opposing evils of hip-shooting (with its excessively high error rate in most situations) and unreasonable procrastination (which generates frustration among others in the organization).” [Original italics; emphasis added.]

André Martins’ study (2007) confirm that a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership will not work.

“Leadership is changing and approaches focusing on flexibility, collaboration, crossing boundaries and collective leadership are expected to become a high priority. … Instead, each population’s leadership approach must be developed based on economic, political, and geographic needs. We must work hard to gain an in-depth knowledge of the cultural and leadership differences before attempting collaboration or global expansion if we are going to be successful in a boundary-less world.”

In a presentation at the IPMA National Conference (2008), offers this succinct observation on the source of authority:

“A new moral principle is emerging which holds that the only authority deserving one’s allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in direct response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the leader. Those who choose to follow this principle will not casually accept the authority of existing institutions. Rather, they will freely respond only to individuals who are chosen as leader because they are proven and trusted as servants.” [Original italics. Emphasis added.]

John W. Stanko offers these five lessons in his book, So Many Leaders, So Little Leadership (2000), that leaders are born and made; leadership requires a lot of hard work; effective leaders, if they are truly effective, are surrounded by good people; good leaders need to recognize and reward the good people around them; and leaders are servants.

“Service isn’t easy, but it’s what leaders must do if their leadership is to be complete. It requires humility and a firm grasp on purpose and values. Leaders who serve followers have found the way to prevent power from corrupting their leadership. They’ve also found a way to keep from manipulating and controlling followers. It’s through the simple practice and mentality of service.”

Olivier Serrat (2009) in his paper Exercising Servant Leadership states:

“The distributed leadership approach views leadership as a social contract. It shifts the emphasis from developing leaders to developing "leaderful" organizations through concurrent, collective, and compassionate leadership with a collective responsibility for the latter. The distributed leadership theory:

  • Regards leadership as a process of sense making and direction giving—this constitutes a move from individuals to relationships.
  • Rejects the notion of heroic leaders and the focus on top management, and submits a less formalized model whereby leadership is dissociated from organizational hierarchies.
  • Distinguishes the exercise of leadership and the exercise of authority, and treats leadership as a decentralized activity that is not, unavoidably, the sole responsibility of formally appointed leaders.
  • Aims to nurture leadership capacity through the development of leadership processes and skills in others”

In his keynote address during the 2005 International Servant-Leadership Conference, Peter Block offered some thoughts about conversations that have the power to create an alternative future:

“One’s the conversation of possibility. What’s the possibility I came here to live into or to create? Possibilities have to be unreachable. Most of us only set goals. I’ve worshiped too small a god in my life: to be efficient, to be successful… the first half of life I just wanted to make a living, have a relationship that I could screw up, have a couple of kids that wouldn’t be too hurt by the fact that my relationships have been a little volatile.”

“There’s a conversation of ownership. Take whatever you’re complaining about and say, “What have I helped do to create that situation?” Beautiful question. “What’s my contribution to the problem? What have I helped do?” It means I’m an owner. Whatever I complain about, let me turn that question and say, “How have I created that thing?” It’s a conversation of ownership.”

“There’s a conversation of commitment. Commitment means, what’s the promise I’m willing to make with no expectation of return? That’s a commitment. Most of the commercial world, most of the living existing world, is organized around barter. What’s in it for me. Entitlement. The cost of patriarchy is entitlement. If you find people entitled, it’s not who they are; it’s their response to a high-control world that has something in mind for them, and their contribution to that is the wish for safety and protection.”

“There’s a conversation of gifts, an incredible conversation. Most of my life is organized around deficiencies. I’m deficiency-minded. I’ve been working on my deficiencies all my life, and I’m unfortunately working on the same deficiencies now as I was 25 years ago. That’s how effective working on deficiencies is. I have a small problem with finishing peoples’ sentences. I don’t know why, but when somebody starts to speak I always think, “I can finish this sentence, if not better than them, quicker than them.” (Block, 2005) [Emphasis added.]

Unfortunately, there is also dearth of servant leadership literature available online specifically dealing with the Philippine experience, except one where Joey Lina discussed what servant leadership is by sharing his experiences as a leader, as a former Senator, and as a Governor. He asked: “is servant leadership doable, or is it an impossible dream?”

Most of the available literature, written by Filipinos, are mostly compendium of what Servant Leadership is, much like what is done here. Hopefully, with this post, it could generate a conversation on the promise and application of Servant Leadership, not just by government officials but corporate personalities as well, on their path from being good to great!

Going back to the first post of this series, paraphrasing Blanchard (2008), these type of leaders SHOULD seek to be serving leaders instead of self-serving leaders.


Blanchard, Ken(2008). Leadership Is a Higher Calling. Dallas, TX: Success From Home, Vol. 4: 6. (June 2008). pp. 51-52. back to text.

Block, Peter (2005). Servant-Leadership: Creating an Alternative Future. Keynote address, 2005 International Servant-Leadership Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana. Published in The International Journal of Servant-Leadership, 2: 1. As PDF file (2006) by Larry Spears and Shann Ferch (Gonzaga University in collaboration with The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership) back to text.

Jerry, Robert H. II (2009). Reflections on Leadership. Toledo: University of Toledo Law Review, 38 (Winter). 27 March 2007. pp. 539—545. back to text.

Martins, André (2007). The Changing Nature of Leadership. A CCL Research White Paper. Center for Creative Leadership, 2007. p. 17. back to text.

Serrat, Olivier (2009). Exercising Servant Leadership, Knowledge Solutions No. 63. Manila: Asian Development Bank, September 2009. pp. 4—5. back to text.

Stanko, John W. (2000). So Many Leaders, So Little Leadership. AL: Evergreen Press, July 2000. 160pp. back to text.

Traaen & Associates, LLC. (2008). Servant Leadership: The Legitimate Use of Power. Proceedings of IPMA National Conference, Las Vegas, 2008. back to text.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: The posts herein do not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions. Read the full version of self-imposed rules for this blog: A New Year; New Rules. Unless otherwise expressly stated, the posts are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Comments are moderated to keep the discussion relevant and civil. Readers are responsible for their own statements.


1 Comment »

  1. […] See the original post here:  Understanding Servant Leadership: Postscript « The Grey Chronicles […]

    Pingback by Understanding Servant Leadership: Postscript « The Grey Chronicles · entertainment life — 2009.October.19 @ 01:00 | Reply

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