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Book Review - Illustrious Practice of Prophets

Servant Leadership

The leader of a people is the one who serves them. That is the essence of leadership, serving a group or community first, rather than focusing on leading them. This understanding of leadership is vital to societal management and has been adopted by public administrations across the globe. A new ...
| Gurkan Polat | Issue 139 (Jan - Feb 2021)

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Servant Leadership

In This Article

  • Leaders that do not sacrifice and serve will in turn have followers, employees, or subjects that are unwilling to make sacrifices as they will lack a sense of loyalty, trust, or fidelity.
  • The fully committed leaders’ job is to teach people the power of love rather than the love of power.
  • The greatest leaders choose to serve rather than to be served.

The leader of a people is the one who serves them. That is the essence of leadership, serving a group or community first, rather than focusing on leading them. This understanding of leadership is vital to societal management and has been adopted by public administrations across the globe.

A new book titled Global Servant-Leadership: Wisdom, Love, and Legitimate Power in the Age of Chaos, explores this topic in greater detail. Edited by Philip Mathew, Jiying Song, Shann Ray Ferch, and Larry C. Spears (2021, Lexington Books, US and UK), it is an anthology of inspirational studies on servant leadership globally and locally. This compilation explains the elements and essentials of leadership such as the virtue of humility, the power of love and servanthood, and the essence of leaders’ persuasion and greatness in an elegant manner. The four editors compiled the contributions of 21 experts in the field of servant-leadership worldwide. It is a marvelous work to understand the servant-leaders' characteristics such as listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, foresight, stewardship, and commitment to people's growth.

This sense of universal leadership is also an example of the illustrious practices exhibited by other influential leaders throughout the centuries, including prophets. Leaders are the servants of the communities they represent; that is, if a leader wants to be the master of a nation, institution, company, society, or group, they should devote themselves to their service. Leaders that do not sacrifice and serve will in turn have followers, employees, or subjects that are unwilling to make sacrifices as they will lack a sense of loyalty, trust, or fidelity. In servant leadership, there is no intention to be a master but only to serve the people. This relationship builds trust in between leaders and their followers by establishing a relation that is grounded in mutual respect, hard work, and conviction. The perspective of servant leadership is based on the awareness that leadership begins with servanthood.

Since devoted souls make for servant leaders then it follows that servant leaders are devoted people. They bring universal and cultural values to their organizations, societies, and relate with different parts of the world with knowledge, wisdom, love, tolerance, and goodness, not with weapons, brute force, or authoritarian regimes. The ways of peace and love opens the paths that lead to people’s hearts and minds, whereas brutality and savagery cause grudges and hatred to rise from the dead. Love is the nature and the essence of being. The fully committed leaders’ job is thus to teach people the power of love rather than the love of power. That is the most effective way of achieving great and sustainable relationships and extraordinary results. The greatest leaders choose to serve rather than to be served.

Many scholars consider servant-leadership to be the model that the prophets of the past utilized. Their illustrious practices have proved to be examples of ways to properly live and have guided managers and leaders for centuries.

According to contemporary management and leadership principles, "if administrators or managers participate in a project or team, the system will function better, and the performance, employee engagement, and employee involvement will increase." Although the phrasing appears new, this dominant tenet of leadership is fundamentally the same principle: "The master of a community is the one who serves them." Accordingly, leaders or managers who want to gain value from people should sweat, serve, roll up their sleeves, and clean their own desks. Some might then naturally wonder if hierarchies are actually helpful if leaders are encouraged to do so much legwork on their own. Indeed, there should not be in this sense. Respect is a matter of decision, not of expectation. Leaders and managers cannot solve anything through domination, whereas modesty and participation in activities help get things done. As briefly described in chapter 13, "When people are cooking, and you are expected to blow into the fire, you should do it, and if you are expected to collect wood, you should do it. In the home environment, if necessary, washing the dishes, making soup, cleaning, constantly helping the household is the practice of servant-leadership."

The servant—and thus leader—is the one who tries to be useful to their people and humanity. Servanthood comes from a natural sense of helping others. This conscious choice leads people to leadership, making leaders even out of those who neither sought nor expected that role. The crucial element is service, not leadership, which is but a particular case of service. Servant-leaders prefer to serve first and then lead. The most successful leaders are talented, determined, prudent, exceptional personalities who consider themselves servants that work for humanity's joy in the spirit of dedication. The essence of devotion is to abandon the pleasure of living for the sake of the pleasure of living for others.

This book is impressive partly because of its special focus that has the potential to expand people’s minds regarding servant-leadership's worldwide practice across cultures, communities, contexts, continents, and faiths. Looking at the modern age, we see that there are examples of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Robert Greenleaf, and Fethullah Gülen who have embraced the line of servant-leadership and practiced it as a way of life in various parts of the world, with forgiveness, wisdom, love, and legitimate power in an age of chaos. Such strong global servant-leaders are neatly discussed in this book. We can add more figureheads to the list of servant-leaders such as Rabbi Nachman of Breslow, Saint Francis of Assisi, Maulana Jalal ad-Din Rumi, Said Nursi, and many others. They all served their communities and humanity as a whole in each of their respective eras. All are influential servant leaders who have sacrificed a lot, and the presence of these leaders is an excellent benevolence for the sake of humanity. Servant-leaders are the ones who cultivate future servant-leaders with the seeds they sow and the troubles they suffer. To understand whether a person is a servant-leader, the best test is to look at those around him or her and ask, "Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, [and more virtuous]; are they more likely to become servants themselves?" This is the heart of the matter.

In the hope that someday, everywhere, everyone will be impacted by a servant-leader, Global Servant-Leadership is therefore highly recommended to both read and share.

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