Why Servant Leadership is a Good Idea

He came to serve, not to be served (The Message). Christ is the model and very definition of servant leadership. Northhouse shares a number of criticisms of servant leadership including, “being a servant leader implies following and following is viewed as the opposite of leading” (2013, p. 235). Few would agree that Christ was a follower as suggested by this viewpoint. These are the same few people that would tend to confuse meekness with weakness.

A recent New York Times article, Golden Parachutes Are Still Very Much in Style indicates that the “golden parachute” practice continues today albeit using  some more creative approaches due to a number of high profile “golden parachute” cases in the recent past. In 2007, William McGuire, M. D., the former CEO of UnitedHealth Group reached a settlement to payback $468 million as a result of a stock options backdating case. Without admission of wrongdoing, McGuire and the company mislead investors and the employees about the company’s performance. As a former employee of UnitedHealth Group, I had firsthand knowledge of the resulting finacial impact on employees due to these misleading practices.

In contrast, Costco CEO Craig Jelinek has continued to demonstrate the importance of service leadership that their former CEO, Jim Sinegal espoused for the company. Jelnick has set the organization apart from competitors with his commitment to the employees.  Even Political activist, Ralph Nader in is open letter to Jelinek concerning raising the minimum wage acknowledged that Costco “understands that the success of it business relies on the prosperity and happiness of its employees” (2012). A June 6th, 2013 MSN article, Costco may be the happiest company on Earth provides a great case that service leadership can be an effective leadership approach today.


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  1. Wendy says:

    Meekness is not a weakness but there are those that think less of a person for it.

    There is a definite difference between service leadership and golden parachute leadership. Northouse states “Leaders who serve are altruistic: They place their followers’ welfare foremost in their plans.” Service leadership is displayed through mentoring, collaboration, and respect. Employees are empowered and the leader measures success through employees. In contrast golden parachute leadership is focused on oneself. The parachute contract is written to protect only the leader in case of a company sell out. The leader may communicate well and be charismatic but all motives lead to self empowerment.

    Leaders today do demonstrate The Law of Sacrifice but all too often it is for the wrong reasons. How many leaders have traded being present in their children’s lives for working more hours to get the next big promotion? God tells us which is better in Ephesians 6:7 “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” We are to encourage, guide others and look out for them.

  2. erinwel says:

    \Northouse (2013) writes that servant leadership, by virtue of putting followers first, makes the leader into a follower. He concedes that servant leadership does contain a component of influence that has not been fully analyzed nor a definitive approach been developed (Northouse, 2013). Although I agree that leaders cannot exist apart from followers, there seems to be some disagreement on whether leadership concerns impassive influence or a relationship. Wheatley (2006) remarks that from the sub atomic to the most complex of organization (including human), all contain potential that is not found in the individual, but manifests in relationship. Northouse’s (2013) own definition of leadership describes a relationship where leaders affect and are affected by their followers.

    In many Christian circles servant leadership is almost synonymous with Christ-like leadership. However, servant leadership consists primarily of the leader’s focus being internal by intentionally choosing servant-hood to achieve organizational change (Niewold, 2007). The concern is that servant leadership has been humanized with apparent Pelagianism leaving both leader and followers to find fulfillment apart from a transforming relationship with Christ (Niewold, 2007). Servant leadership could, however, be recast by including a much strengthened biblical conception of leadership (Niewold, 2007).

    Niewold, J. (2007). Beyond servant leadership. Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership, 1(2), 118-134. Retrieved July 19, 2013, from http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/jbpl/vol1no2/JBPLVol1No2_Niewold.pdf

    Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.

    Wheatley, M. (2006). Relationships: The basic building blocks of life. Retrieved July 19, 2013, from http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/relationships.html

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