By Mostafa Sayyadi 

Companies are faced with challenging economic conditions today with global competition increasing and the need to be number one or two in an industry or fail to keep up with the market place. And today’s globalized nature of competitiveness is placing more pressure on organizations to employ effective leaders who are capable to develop a global vision for organizations. Leaders need to think globally yet act locally because local strategies need to be realigned with the global economic integration and for individual countries. Leadership plays a critical role and is a strategic prerequisite for business success in global markets. In the absence of effective leadership, companies lose the required direction to achieve a high degree of competitiveness, and cannot implement a successful change in order to adapt to today’s uncertain business environment----they simply resort to managing the status quo. Therefore, there is a global need to investigate leadership models to accomplish sustainable competitiveness in global markets. 

Today, the question remains, can leaders be made or do they have to be born leaders to be successful? Let us agree that leaders can be made and that being a born leader may be an additional attribute of leadership. In an attempt to make leaders effective, various leadership models exist. For instance, many management consultants are familiar with servant leadership model developed by Robert Greenleaf and this article is not about measuring aptitude or defining this leadership model. It is about getting the information needed to be successful in the right hands of management consultants across the globe.

The key for management consultants is that servant leaders are those who turn the organizational chart upside down, putting the customers at the top. The advantages of the servant leadership model are its altruism, simplicity, and self-awareness. It emphasizes the moral sense of concern for others, reducing the complexity engendered by putting personal desires in conflict with those of followers. Servant leadership can be clearly seen as rooted in the clerical leadership perspective in that Christ’s leadership when Robert Greenleaf says that the words “service,” “to serve” and “servant” occur over 1300 times in the revised version of the St. James bible.

The servant leadership model highlights Jesus as an ultimate example of a servant leader, and suggests applying the leadership insights that Jesus gives us within organizations. According to the model, only service to others, is the pathway to real significance. Management consultants need to first know that scholars recommend ten fundamental characteristics for a servant leader:

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Healing
  4. Awareness
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualization
  7. Foresight
  8. Stewardship
  9. Commitment to the growth of people, and;
  10. Building community.

The key characteristics of servant leadership model mentioned above, when carried out correctly, can present an effective leadership. These fundamental characteristics represent how an effective leader working in today’s changing situations can successfully manage and develop corporations.

Servant leadership model has not evaded the criticism by scholars that normally are associated with leadership models and theories. This model has been challenged for a lack of adequate empirical studies to substantiate its academic rigor and is often shelved as a learning tool as opposed to a leadership application. An example to this scholarly debate, servant leadership is systematically undefined and lacking in empirical support necessary for managerial implementation. The existing literature on servant leadership is filled with anecdotal evidence and that empirical research is critically needed to substantial the use of it in the boardroom of large corporations. Servant leadership is criticized for gender bias in its theoretical perspectives. Also, it is necessary for management consultants to be aware that servant leadership is criticized as being inapplicable for real-world scenarios.

In conclusion, sure, there are critics of this leadership model, but do not let that stop you from implementing it and learning how to master it. Servant leadership model has its roots in helping others and providing hope in an environment that seems to be not only hypercompetitive but also elusive for companies to find a stronghold. This leadership model is about shifting away from the old paradigm of a hierarchical pyramid-shaped organization. The key for management consultants is that all leaders should serve their organization to provide the customer and shareholder with the best possible service. Thus, when looking at servant leadership from a new perspective, management consultants not only should be aware of this leadership model but place more emphasis on applying what works best for companies in the current work environment.