Pages

Search My Blog & Website

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Authority and Influence Through Servant Leadership

Many leaders miss the whole point of leadership. It is simply to serve. An effective leader is one who can serve and has the influence to make things happen to allow him/her to serve. Unfortunately many leaders believe that their role is to control and police. That is a fallacy. Leadership is not about enforcement, it is about strategy, vision, developing others and sustainability. Enforcement is a tactical task and does not need a leader, it needs an executor in the form of an employee.

Servant leadership was introduced in 1970 by Robert Greenleaf, however the concept is not new to humanity. God through his revelations to Ibrahim (Abraham), Moses, Jesus and Mohammad (peace be upon all of them) guided mankind to the true understanding of leadership. When God addressed Ibrahim (pbuh) he informed him that he is making him a leader to all of the human race. Ibrahim asked God to give leadership to his offspring and generations to come, but God corrected Ibrahim and clarified that leadership is not to be given to transgressors. Those who go over the boundaries of God. God wants the human race to follow Ibrahim. The question then becomes what is it that Ibrahim possessed that made him required by God to carry the burden of leadership on his shoulders? The answer is submission. In the Quran, in the chapter of the Cow, God shares with us a beautiful conversation that took place between God and Ibrahim and it ends showing us that Ibrahim confirmed his submission to God, this submission encompassed compassion, love, service to God and care for mankind through his building the Holy Kaaba, making prayers and supplications that God accept from him and his son, make them remain submitters, and that God give the best of bounties, guidance, to his offspring, and send a messenger from among themselves that guides them and purifies them.

"the answer is submission, followed by compassion"

God teaches Mohammad (pbuh) that should he been harsh and difficult people would have walked away from him. After submission (belief), compassion is positioned at the heart of being a servant leader. We have many examples of the Prophet being a compassionate servant leader; spending long hours of time with the youth of his community, joking with the elders, caring for the orphans, looking after the needy, serving the neighbors and coaching the young to take over responsibility and leadership. Mohammad (pbuh) was an empathetic listener, when talking with others he would give them his full attention, and fully turn towards the speaker, he would never get go of a handshake until the other party did first, he would always smile in the face of others and be an attentive listener, reflecting on what is being said to him, analyzing it, acknowledging and sharing the feelings of the speaker. The Prophet (pbuh) always recognized others' needs and feelings. He was well aware of their issues and acknowledged their concerns and needs.
 
A servant leader is one that is able to accept criticism, just like Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, when a woman from among the audience one day jumped up and recited a verse from the Quran which contradicted Omar and strongly corrected him. Omar was accepting the advice and smiled. A servant leader is one who endures, and is courageous, such a leader is courageous to take risks to serve others with what pleases God. A servant leader will make sure policies and procedures are flexible and efficient to serve the people, the servant leader will take risks to try new things and will be courageous to stand next to his/her decision. Servant leaders do not hide behind bureaucracies and policies that are handicapping and find them as shelters for excuses for not serving the followers. Mohammad was a courageous leader, taking risks when signing treaties with his enemies, accepting behavior from others at times of distress. Omar was risk taking as well, he stopped the application of Hudud (Islamic rulings on major crimes) at times of poverty and economic downturns.

A servant leader is one who transforms an experience and a follower, a leader who not only embraces change, trust, delegation and integration, but also one who acts in a powerful way to transform the behavior of his followers. Mohammad (pbuh) has many instances when he transformed Omar from the angry disbeliever who was after killing him to the submissive crying believer. He transformed the ruthless thug and disbeliever who attacked him under the tree while sleeping into a humble, compassionate believer. He transformed Arabia, he transformed the world. Ghandi is another modern example of a servant leader who exhibited transformation in our times.

"A servant leader is one who transforms an experience and a follower, a leader who not only embraces change, trust, delegation and integration, but also one who acts in a powerful way to transform the behavior of his followers."

Servant leaders humble themselves and work for serving the cause of God through serving the people with wisdom and best of advice. They build bridges of cooperation, trust and compassion. They care for others more than they care for themselves.

Servant leaders are leaders who are hard to spot in the middle of a crowd, they are easy going, cheerful, accepting and trustworthy. They have authority not through control, but rather through love and admiration. They respect others, the can not sleep the nights when they know that one of their followers is hungry, has a problem or is in need.

A servant leader is one who cares that each young person under his responsibility is protected in his deen (way of life, religion) and has the means to get closer to his/her Lord. A servant leader is one who cares that each elder person under his responsibility has their needs fulfilled and the capabilities to look forward to a bright tomorrow.


"Ibn-Al-Khattab did, .. ask yourself did I cry today because I fell short in my leadership responsibility?"

Servant leaders care about the core and not the surface. They care that the hearts are satisfied and the minds are at peace. They do not care too much about what people say about them, or how they view them, or whether people see them following policies and rules. After all policies and rules are to benefit and assist in growth, not to block success and impede progress.

To every leader out there, I remind myself and you if you want to lead, then be a servant. Put your face in the dirt and humble yourself just like Omar Ibn-Al-Khattab did, and ask yourself did I cry today because I fell short in my leadership responsibility?

"I follow the footsteps of Omar when coaching leaders .... and I follow the footsteps of Abu Bakr when I coach followers"

When I coach leaders I follow the footsteps of Omar when it comes to coaching leaders, I bang on them real hard. I do not just criticize, I send them a blow into their face. Call it a wake up call, call it a reality check. No sugar coating, no sweet talk, direct dump of feedback from the heart. Coaching a follower is very different. I follow the footsteps of Abu Bakr when it comes to dealing with followers.

In 2000 Larry Spears summarized Greenleaf's servant leadership writings into ten characteristics:

  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Healing
  • Awareness
  • Persuasion
  • Conceptualization
  • Foresight
  • Stewardship
  • Commitment to Growth
  • Building Community
Servant leadership is deeply rooted in the Islamic way of life. Traits of compassion, submission, patience, generosity, frugal life-style, humility, humbleness, love, caring, sincerity, integrity, courage, honesty, dedication, commitment, perseverance, steadfastness and ihsan are all components of a servant leader.

"compassion, submission, patience, generosity, frugal life-style, humility, humbleness, love, caring, sincerity, integrity, courage, honesty, dedication, commitment, perseverance, steadfastness and ihsan"

I share this little knowledge I have with every leader out there, whether a member of the board of a non-profit, a county executive, a country president, a teacher, a parent, a principal, a CEO, a head of class or a self-leader.

_________________________
pbuh = peace be upon him

No comments: