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Posted on September 20th, 2012, by

In any society all people can be conditionally divided into those who lead and those who follow. This division is not new and seems to exist as long as mankind exists. As soon as people became conscious of this fact, various theories concerning leadership appeared and various researches to the topic were done. The issues and problems of leadership are acute to any society and any organization as an integral part of human relations, because the position and skills of the leader are the major inciting forces for reaching the aims of organization as a whole.

The leader bears the biggest part of the responsibility for the results, as well as for his followers. In such a context, servant leadership is a prospective leadership approach which can improve the relationships between the leader and his subordinates and increase the effectiveness of the organizational performance.

Servant leadership is growing more and more popular today and its popularity is, to a significant extent, determined by its relatively high efficiency. At any rate, it is obvious that the leader who tends to be a steward is likely to develop positive relationships with his subordinates than an authoritarian leader who controls his subordinates and limits their autonomy (Fidelus, 2003). On the other hand, Koch (2004) argues that it is necessary to remember about certain risks


that accompany servant leadership. According to Koch (2004) the problem of formal and informal leadership puts under a threat the effectiveness of servant leadership since the presence of informal leaders in organizations can undermine the authority of formal leaders who exercise servant leadership. Nobel (2005) argues that servant leadership can be effective on the condition when the leader combines both formal and informal authority and manages to balance his stewardship and good positive interpersonal relations with his high formal authority as a leader of the organization.

The popularity of servant leadership stimulates many organizations and leaders to introduce this leadership approach, which can potentially change the organizational culture consistently. In such a situation, it is extremely important to implement servant leadership effectively.

Otherwise, an organization can face serious problems provoked by the inability of the leader to maintain his authority, which is probably the greatest risk accompanying servant leadership. This is why it is necessary to take into consideration this risk while implementing servant leadership.

The implementation of servant leadership should undergo several stages, which are essential for the positive outcomes of the organizational change since the introduction of servant leadership inevitably leads to the consistent change of relationships within the organization. First of all, it is necessary to start with the planning of the implementation of servant leadership. A leader cannot change his/her leadership style immediately without taking into consideration the way, in which he/she will implement the change, and the outcomes of the change. In fact, the planning process is very important because, on this stage, a leader defines clearly objectives he/she wants to achieve, i.e. to introduce servant leadership and shape positive interpersonal relationships with his/her subordinate, and the ways in which these objectives are to be achieved. The plan should identify a set of methods the leader should use and his/her work with subordinates to gain their support and acceptance of the change.

For instance, at my workplace, the manager can plan the introduction of servant leadership style. He can develop the basic stages: the change of the relationships with employees, making them more positive; gaining confidence of employees through giving them autonomy and support; control and analyze the implementation of servant leadership through assessing the effectiveness of work of employees before the introduction of servant leadership and after it.

After that it is possible to start the practical implementation of the plan. At this stage, it is very important to stick to the original plan and change it only on the condition that such changes are really essential. For instance, it is necessary to change the plan if a leader faces the opposition from the part of employees. Such an opposition can arise when employees get used to a highly formal relationships with leader, especially if the leader used authoritarian management style. In such a context, it is quite natural that employees can have certain apprehensions concerning stewardship of the leader and the growing trend to the de-formalization of relationships between the leader and his/her subordinates. To overcome these apprehensions, the leader may need to change his/her plan and introduce additional stages of the establishment of less formal interpersonal relationships with employees. For instance, while introducing servant leadership at my workplace, the manager can face a problem of the opposition from the part of some employees. Therefore, the manager needs to introduce some changes in his plan, for instance, organize a picnic for the staff, where he and subordinates can communicate in an informal environment and establish more friendly relationships. After that, it will be easier to perform the role of a steward-leader. Alternative, he can organize some vacation activities, such as an informal party or a trip which involves employees and the leader and during which they can close the hierarchical gap that exists between them. In such a situation, both the leader and subordinates can learn better each other and understand what they actually want and need. In addition, such approach strengthens the unity of the personnel and people often start to work as a team, especially if the leader implements servant leadership.

However, the introduction of servant leadership cannot be successful, if its outcomes and effects are not evaluated by the leader. This means that the leader needs to be able to control the introduction of servant leadership and its outcomes. In order to assess the effects and benefits of the initiative, it is possible to use various approaches. For instance, at my workplace, the manager can assess the effect of the new leadership style through analysis of the marketing performance of our unit. To put it more precisely, he can compare the productivity of work of the staff before and after the introduction of the change. Also, he can analyze the customer satisfaction level through interviews or simply through conversations with customers. In addition, he can use anonymous questionnaires to find out the opinion of subordinates whether they support the initiative or not and whether they feel it has a positive effects or not. Hence, the customer satisfaction, higher productivity and support of the initiative by employees are major criteria which allow assessing the outcomes of the introduction of servant leadership either as positive or as negative.

Limitations of existing theories of leadership

In spite of the variety of leadership theories existing in the contemporary business environment, practically all of them imply the existence of certain organizational hierarchy, where the leader traditionally takes the top position, while his/her subordinates often turn to be inferior to the leader. Naturally, such a hierarchy, which is promoted directly or indirectly by the overwhelming majority of leadership theories, increases the risk of internal conflicts, because contemporary employees need more autonomy and independence from their leaders in order to work effectively and productively. The reason is the increased role of creativity and flexibility of employees and modern organizations. Leadership theories often deprive employees of independence making the leader the main decision maker who imposes his/her will on his/her subordinates. In this respect, servant leadership offers an alternative to traditional leadership theories because it promotes the stewardship of the leader and, therefore, his/her support and assistance to his/her subordinates, instead of imposing his/her will on them.

In actuality, the existence of the variety of leadership theories does not necessarily mean that some theories are perfect, while others are ineffective. In this respect, it is necessary to take into consideration the environment in which leadership theories are applied. To put it more precisely, often, when a crisis within the company or in the industry begins, the use of authoritarian leadership style can be effective since this leadership style implies the strong leadership based on the formal and informal authority of the leader who can head the organization and make his subordinates to obey and follow his decisions and orders. At the same time, the authoritarian leadership has a considerable drawback since in a long-run employees grow more and more frustrated because of the permanent pressure from the part of the leader. Therefore, employees are unable to improve the productivity and efficiency of their work in the long run under the authoritarian leadership because this leadership style prevents employees from autonomy and it does not allow employees to use creativity and internal potential to improve their work through taking decisions independently or autonomously from the leader. Obviously, the ineffectiveness of the work of employees produces a negative impact on the organizational performance at large. Consequently, the authoritarian leadership, which can be effective during crisis, becomes ineffective in a long-run. In addition, it is worth mentioning the fact that the authoritarian leadership implies that the leader is overwhelmed with the work because it is the leader who takes decisions and who is responsible for the work of the entire organization. Thus, employees do not feel their responsibility for outcomes of their work, while they become tools which perform functions and tasks defined by the leader. As a result, an authoritarian leader often has to focus on routine problems and take decisions concerning the routine work, which, under a different leadership style, could be taken by employees. In such a situation, the leader has little time to work on strategically important decisions and planning of the further development of the organization. In such a way, the authoritarian leadership turns out to be ineffective on all levels in a long-run perspective.

At the same time, other leadership theories, which are very popular today, such as participative leadership, are also imperfect and have their own drawbacks. For instance, on analyzing the participative leadership, it is possible to estimate that this theory seems to be more effective than authoritarian leadership, especially in a long-run, because this theory implies that the leader involves other people in the process of decision making. At first glance, the involvement of the larger number of people in the process of decision making facilitates the process of decision making and makes the performance of the organization more flexible. In fact, the participative leadership style implies that employees and subordinates of a leader can act and take decisions autonomously. Therefore, they can react on the unexpected environment changes and take decisions in response to the changes. In such a way, they save time as well as costs of the organization spent on taking decisions. On the other hand, such a leadership style has a number of drawbacks. First of all, the autonomy of employees increases their responsibility, while many employees are unprepared for greater responsibility, especially if their position in the organization remains unchanged as well as their salary. In such a context, employees view additional responsibilities for the decision they take autonomously as a new burden which they are unwilling to carry on without a prospect of a career growth or salary increase. Secondly, the leader needs to implement an effective system of control in order to ensure that employees are taken decisions which are beneficial for the company and which are really effective. Otherwise, the organization faces a risk of the chaotic development, when a leader loses control and cannot make his subordinates to support the strategic development of the organization and work on the achievement of its strategic goals.

Thus, it is possible to conclude that servant leadership is imperfect and can be criticized, but this leadership style is above all oriented on positive interpersonal relationships between the leader and his employees. Therefore, employees are confident in their leader. They feel their responsibility and they readily accept this responsibility because they feel their leader appreciate their efforts and is ready to support them, if necessary. In such a way, a team spirit is built up within the organization which increases the effectiveness and productivity of its work. On the other hand, servant leadership can undermine the formal authority of the leader and can hardly be effective during a crisis.

Nevertheless, this leadership style is very effective in a long-run perspective that is particularly important for organizations which target at the stable and steady development. In addition, servant leadership contributes to the formation of a positive organizational culture and allows employees to work autonomously and creatively. Obviously, all these characteristics can play determinant role in the competitive struggle in the future, when the flexibility of the organization and the ability of its personnel to realize its full potential are crucial for the commercial success of any organization.

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