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In the PMBOK in Section 2 – Project Performance Domains - on page 17: there is this text passage

"Servant leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on understanding and addressing the needs and development of project team members in order to enable the highest possible project team performance. Servant leaders place emphasis on developing project team members to their highest potential by focusing on addressing questions, such as:

▶Are project team members growing as individuals?

▶Are project team members becoming healthier, wiser, freer, and more autonomous?

▶Are project team members more likely to become servant leaders?"

Servant leadership is a deeper concept of Robert K. Greenleaf's philosophy. He was inspired by the fiction of Hermann Hesse "The Journey of the East". Greenleaf's book "The Servant as a Leader" inspires people in all parts of the world and until now the book is essential in the modern leadership literature

Although it is written some decades ago (1977) it comprises still the most valid principles of leadership. The insights are profound, sometimes philosophical. The major ideas are mirrored in the modern management theories.

'The Servant as Leader' is a fundamental essay about leadership without authority in a world with changes and uncertainty. The most important characteristics and activities of Servant Leaders are described. Examples are given which show that individual efforts, leaded by a strong vision and a servant approach and ethical principles, will yield substantial enhancements in work relationships and in the quality of society in general. Greenleaf outlines and discusses the skills necessary to be a Servant Leader. The wisdom and experiences, he is sharing with us, fit to our leader role as Project Managers and to the leader in all kind of organizations. The high productive and creative working environment with high motivated people are possible if we have the right leaders. The most crucial characteristics are self-awareness, foresight and active listening. The leader as Servant Leader gains and exerts persuasive power instead of applying coercive and manipulative behaviour.

Who is a Servant Leader?
The Servant Leader is a kind of leader who serves first. This is a central aspect. Serving means to set the highest priority to the needs of other people who are being served. How to prove the achievement of such kind of leadership? The people, while being served, grow, "become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous and more likely themselves to become servants" and even Servant Leader in future. A virtuous circle is being evolved, in which team members and leaders reinforce each other. "Servant leadership produces virtuous cycles of service."

The Servant Leader is convinced of something that is good for the mankind and is keen to engage and inspire others to achieve the common goal. She or He has the dream that something should become better and she or he firmly believes in the change.
The Servant Leader is not looking for power and authority or money and fame. The drive lies in aspiration. She or He is inspired and wants to change something meaningful. She or He has a clear vision that one can achieve something important, a healthy thing. She or He is the true leader if she or he is seen as a servant. The team members receive advice and support and freely respond to her or him to achieve the common goal.
"Faith is the choice of the nobler hypothesis." The Servant Leader is inside humble. She or He doesn't say that she or he knows the way. On contrary, she or he as a leader is always searching, listening and expecting that there is always a better way to achieve the goal.
The Servant Leader has a high self-awareness. She or He recognizes herself or himself as an individual with her or his individual traits, feelings, and behaviors. She or He is a critical thinker. She or He is aware that nothing can be known for sure. She or He works with hypothesis and tries to find the best fit and follows this way. If the result is not satisfying she or he re-examines the hypothesis. This attitude shows her or his belief in continuous learning and she or he refines the approach and is open for fresh new choices and ready for changes.

The Servant Leader has a goal, an overarching purpose, a big dream, a vision. By clearly stating the goal the leader gives certainty and purpose to others and inspires them to participate in the journey. To have success it is more needed to have a dream first. Then it needs assertive behaviour and discipline. Undoubtedly, no great achievement is coming true without the dream first.

What counts most to get a successful leader?

Listening and understanding
Greenleaf makes an example of how true listening makes the difference. A leader was asked to sort out a complex problem in an institution. She or He was convinced to get the solution when she or he will ask all who are involved, and she or he conducted interviews and spent many hours with the people individually to elicit the knowledge about the issues. After six weeks the problem was solved, and the process was healed. She or He was able to learn and received the insights needed to set the right course. Here the answer is listening first. It is a long arduous discipline of learning listening. The good thing is one can learn it. Once you have learned listening you will be a better communicator as well.

Communication matters.
The goal is to convey the real meaning. The means are words, imaginations, examples. You should not be trapped in your own verbal world and be flexible to convey your message. If the leader has no authority, then she or he has to lead by persuasion. Convincing is obviously the better way than coercion to achieve changing a person's attitude or behaviour.

Fighting and withdraw
Find the right balance in fighting and withdrawal! The ability to withdraw and reorient oneself, to apply the art of systematic neglect, to sort out the more important from the less important – and the important from the urgent – and attend to the more important, are the key elements to be successful.

Acceptance and Empathy
These are connected traits for a successful leader. The attitude to receive what is offered and the set one's own consciousness into another being have a real impact. For example, a teacher should always accept each pupil and never reject a student. The great leader has deep down inside empathy and an unqualified acceptance of the person she or he wants to lead. This behaviour implies a tolerance of imperfection. The secret is to be able to form a team of such people by lifting them up to grow taller than they would otherwise be. Leader who accept and respect others can even criticize performance in terms of their capability of doing and they can establish trustful relationships. Trust is an invaluable asset for teamwork.

Know the unknowable
A successful leader needs to have a sense for uncertainty. The ability to foresee the unforeseeable, to expect the unexpected is needed to lead. This is a kind of intuitive insight. If the leader would wait until she or he has all information to make the right decision it would often be too late and sometime also too costly. Better to make the right decision on time with some degree of uncertainty. The art of leadership rests, in part, on the ability to bridge the information gap by intuition. Leaders must be more creative and ready to push into the unknown. "Every once in a while a leader finds himself needing to think like a scientist, an artist, or a poet."

Foresight – The Central Ethic of Leadership
"The 'now' is the moving concept in which past, present moment, and future are one organic unity.". A practicing leader incorporates the roles of historian, the contemporary analyst and the prophet, the future scientist. This is a concept of life. In the turbulent business world and under the stress of the modern life the Servant Leader enters these situations with the necessary experience and knowledge and intuitive insights to reach an optimal performance. This is the only way to maintain serenity in the face of uncertainty. "…bearing in mind that there are always emergencies and the optimum includes carrying an unused reserve of energy in all periods of normal demand so that one has the resilience to cope with the emergency."

"Foresight is the 'lead' the leader has.". Greenleaf cites abundant current examples of loss of leadership which stems from failure to foresee what reasonably could have been foreseen. Today, in a disruptive world where changes are so rapid and new concepts disrupt common economic models, it is so important.
The concept of Greenleaf is getting more important in a complex world where leaders are needed who can build trust and serve others to reach the strategic goals without having the organizational power and authority.

Ist das nicht ein wunderbar weiser Gedanke in der Corona Zeit // Isn't that a wonderfully wise thought in Corona time...
"Foresight is the 'lead' the leader has.".

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Comments 1

Jörg Glunde on Samstag, 29. Januar 2022 20:00

Thanks for this good introduction to the topic. Especially to do it like

The Servant Leader is a kind of leader who serves first.
is not easy for mankind, who learned that in a different way.

Thanks for this good introduction to the topic. Especially to do it like [quote]The Servant Leader is a kind of leader who serves first.[/quote] is not easy for mankind, who learned that in a different way.
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