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Servant leadership 2.0: Principles of S.E.R.V.A.N.T.H.O.O.D.

September 1, 2013

FMT LETTER: From Johnny Moi, via e-mail

“If everything rises or falls on leadership, choosing a servant leader may determine life and death of the people led.”

In my previous writing, ‘Servant Leadership 1.0 – Serve to Lead’, we saw the concepts of servant leadership, qualities of being a servant leader, the historic and modern perspectives and the model of servant leadership briefly outlined.

Let’s explore some insights as to how to choose a servant leader based on the qualities and the model of servant leadership written earlier. Larry Spears, the Chief Steward of the Greenleaf Centre of Servant Leadership stated that the 10 characteristics of a servant leader are:

1 Listening

2 Empathy

3 Healing

4 Awareness

5 Persuasion

6 Conceptualisation

7 Foresight

8 Stewardship

9 Commitment to the growth of others

10 Building community

For a fuller understanding of the above characteristics, please visit the website: www.greenleaf.org

With the understanding that the characteristic of an ideal servant leader is non-exhaustive, I table more distinguishing qualities for your consideration:

Sacrifice – As servant leaders, do not expect the followers to sacrifice themselves for you if you have not shown first that you are willing to sacrifice yourself for them. There cannot be a greater sacrifice for a leader who is willing to sacrifice himself or herself for others.

Example – The old adage, “Leadership by example” is still valid for today’s world. Effective servant leaders are those who are not only leading by doing it, they are actually living it! Leaders of today are even coming under greater scrutiny in their sayings and actions with the advent of technology.

Revival – Good servant leaders must learn to bring to life and / or consciousness of serving one another, encouraging one another and standing alongside together.

Vanguard – Real servant leaders lead from the front…..always in the forefront in all activities and leading by example in all they say and do.

Advancing the cause – Why do we choose leaders? Because the followers expect leaders to advance their cause, simply! They see their embodiment of the cause through the chosen leaders.

Nurturing – Servant leaders are expected to nurture or support the follower’s individual and group growth at all stages. This is a mandatory requirement. If not, the leader will lose the support of the followers.

Transparency – It is to the advantage of servant leaders if they are easily seen through and understood in all their deeds. They are expected to be open and frank. Leaders who are not transparent will be discarded at the earliest opportunity!

Helping – Servant leaders are expected to be the change agent in cooperating effectively, aid and assist, rescue and relieve the followers’ burdens that arise. Effective servant leaders help themselves by helping others first!

Overcoming spirit – Followers admired leaders who never give up despite coming against great odds and adversities. Servant leaders with overcoming spirit will inspire their followers to never giving up in coming against all opposition.

Obligation – Servant leaders and their followers are obliged to honor the binding requirement as to their actions and duty respectively. Servant leaders are to place others before selves in this binding relationship.

Dedication – Effective servant leaders are those who understand the needs to give up wholly and earnestly of themselves to the noble or sacred purpose of the group. The followers would not want it in any other way.

Readers can recall the above distinguishing features expected of a modern servant leader by remembering this acronym: S.E.R.V.A.N.T.H.O.O.D.

Following are some of the scriptural principles gleaned from the mainstream believers and Holy Books to anchor the qualities of a faithful servant leader:

Of Christians, Bible and leadership

“Where there is no leadership, the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors, there is safety.” – Proverbs 11: 14

“Work hard and be a leader; be lazy and never succeed. – Proverbs 12:24

“When there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18

Of Muslims, Quran and leadership:

“Make your character good for the people.”- Al-Muwatta, Volume 47 Hadith 1

“It is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than to make a mistake in punishing.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1011

“None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” – Bukhari and Muslim

Of Buddhists, Tipitaka and leadership

“To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” – Gautama Buddha

“I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.” – Buddha

“We are shaped by our thought; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha’s teachings

Of Jews, Torah and leadership

“One person’s candle is a light for many.” – Talmud

“Do not separate yourself from the community.” – Misnah

“Act while you can: While you have the chance, the means and the strength.” – Talmud

Of Hindus, Vedas and leadership

“One, who earns leadership of the masses by working ceaselessly for people’s welfare finally realises that he has been rewarded with many advantages.” – Vedas

“Money and mansions are not the only wealth. Hoard the wealth of the Spirit. Character is wealth, good conduct is wealth; and spiritual wisdom is wealth.” – Atharva Veda

“One who acquires knowledge and then pass it on to others, get all his wishes fulfilled and achieves success, happiness and prosperity in his life.” – Atharva Veda

Of Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib and leadership

“Often repeated actions are engraved on the heart.” – Guru Nanak

“Realisation of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is Truthful Living.”- Guru Nanak

“The world is in agony because of the filth of ego, the word is filthy because of duality; the filth of ego cannot be washed away, even as one bathes at one hundred holy places.” – Guru Amar Das, Sri Raga

Of Bahais, Kitab-i-Aqan and leadership

“The first quality for leadership both among individuals and Assemblies is the capacity to use the energy and competence that exists in the rank and file of its followers.” – Shoggi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, page 33

“Put away the garment of vain glory, and divest yourselves of the attire of haughtiness.” (arrogance and/or pride, emphasis mine) – Bahaullah, The Persian Hidden Words 47

“The spiritually learned must be characterised by both inward and outward perfection; they must possess a good character, an enlightened nature, a pure intent, as well as as intellectual power, brilliance and discernment, intuition, discretion and foresight, temperance, reverence and a heartfelt fear of God.” – Abdul Baha, The Secrets of Divine Civilisation, page 33

On seeking forgiveness from learned people

I seek the readers’ forgiveness should I make any mistakes or left out those that have not been quoted here. Some of the Holy Books include compilations of lesser Scripture or minor books but nonetheless, are equally important. I am starting here with the main “Holy Books” and inspiring quotations from great Leaders of the faiths.

If each and everyone of us (who is a servant leader in default) can take into consideration some, if not, all the values proposed in choosing a capable servant leader to lead us, then the world will be a better place for us and our future generations to come.

In summary, choosing the right leaders who will serve us rather than us serving them is of utmost importance and I believe the Holy Books of the various faiths can guide us in this troubled time.

I leave you with this gem: “Whatever actions we are about to do should be thought of with utmost care and concern for people will see them and be influenced by them for good or evil.” – Teachings of Buddha

Lt Commander (R) John Moi, RMN is a management consultant and writer. A founder /advocate of Scriptures to business (S2b) practices and applications, he can be reached at [email protected]

Also read: Servant Leadership – Serve to lead


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