Critical Attributes Necessary in the 21st Century Leader

Leadership Ahead

© 2014 Photo used with purchased copyright permission from BIGSTOCK PHOTO

“Men [women] are alike in their promises. It is only in their deeds that they differ.”  Moliére

Max De Pree’ book, Leadership is an Art, is appropriately named as leadership involves art or skills, characteristics or attributes that must be constantly developed, honed and practiced lest our skill sets become neglected and our leadership influence begin to wane. De Pree provides us with three attributes or characteristics essential to artful leadership:

  1. Personal integrity
  2. The indispensable knack for building and nurturing relationships
  3. Community building (1990, pp. viii-xii)

Whether we are a leader in a for-profit, non-profit, marketplace, or faith-based organization, leading in the 21st Century will become increasingly challenging. Michael J. Marquardt & Nancy O. Berger in their book, Global Leaders for the 21st Century, reinforce this challenge stating:

For organizations, the next century [this century] (and millennium) will bring much greater complexity and tougher challenges that we can only begin to imagine. We know that we can anticipate increasingly fierce competition, environmental catastrophes, and political, religious, and social strife, but also exciting technological breakthroughs about the world around us; all will contribute to a need for a special kind of leader (2000, p. ix).

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Is Servant Leadership An Oxymoronic Term?

Leadership Theories On A Wooden Board

© 2014 Used with purchased copyright permission from BIGSTOCK PHOTO

In an earlier blog article entitled “Servant Leadership: Hired Hands or Hired Hearts” we began the exploration of the subject of servant leadership. We refer you to the article (scroll down to view earlier blog article) referencing Dr. Kathleen Patterson, Regent University, and her audio lesson on servant leadership. Particularly striking was her statement of viewing people more as “hired hearts” than “hired hands.” From that audio lesson, we began to explore the subject of servant leadership and this article will only continue this theme’s development. This article will include thoughts and comments of a scholarly nature, as well as a practical application example of servant leadership lived out in a business context.

James C. Sarros, (Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 2002), makes an interesting observation that “One reason for the scarcity of research on servant leadership is that the very notion of ‘servant as leader’ is an oxymoron,” (p.1). Sarros states, “It may be difficult to think and act both as leader and servant at the same time – a leader who serves and a servant who leads,” (p.1). Certainly, over the past eight years more articles, scholarly papers, and  books written on the subject of servant leadership have made their to printed form. However, there still may exist in the minds of some that the words “servant” and “leader” are incompatible relative to leadership. Continue reading

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Servant Leadership: Hired Hearts or Hired Hands?

Mexican Cowboy In A Meadow© 2014 Used with purchased copyright permission from BIGSTOCK PHOTO

What images immediately come to your mind when you see or hear the words “hired hands?” For many of us it conjures up images of a full time or seasonal farm, field, or ranch worker who works long hours doing hard menial work for low wages. Depending on the country and area of the world you live in a certain ethnic people group might come to mind when we see or hear those words. When you viewed the above picture and read these opening sentences did a similar image like the person in this picture come to mind. The interesting part here is that this purchased photo is entitled “Mexican Cowboy in a Meadow.”  Nothing more, nothing less, reminding us word associations and the mental images they conjure up influences subsequent actions by people for good and for bad; even for those of us in leadership positions.

Regardless of where in our world we live as leaders, how we view and treat people we have the privilege of leading is a matter of great importance; especially for the leader who is a Christ follower. Do we view our employees, volunteers, church members or staff as “hired hands” or “hired hearts?” The difference is huge, the implication immense.

Dr. Kathleen Patterson is the Director of the Doctor of Strategic Leadership program at Regent University’s School of Business and Leadership. Recently, in listening to an audio speech by Dr. Patterson from the series, Leadership Talks, Volume 5, Issue 1, she made a very interesting statement. She stated that as “Servant Leaders feel called to serve others, then as leaders we need to look at followers as hired hearts instead of hired hands.” What is striking in her talk was the fact that as leaders, if I/we are not careful I/we will look at those who work for us and around us more as hired hands than as hired hearts. What about those of us in leadership who are responsible for leading volunteers who give graciously of their time and talent, many times with no recognizable or tangible compensation? Do we view them in the same way as we do the person gainfully employed underneath our supervision? Dr. Patterson has made an excellent observation, raised an important leadership question, and then offered the following for our consideration. In this talk she reminds us of the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have done to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (TNIV). Continue reading

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Are You 21st Century Servant Leadership Literate? Part One

Jesus washing feet of modern man wearing jeans© 2014 Used with purchased copyright permission from BIGSTOCK PHOTO

Whether you are a leader in a large or small company, local or global, marketplace or faith based; consider the following observation by Bruce Nixon over a decade ago. In a 2004 article entitled, Creating a Cultural Revolution in Your Workplace to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century, Nixon defined the situation we find ourselves in today as leaders in a new century by saying:

We are in the midst of transformation than can only compare with the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. We call it globalization. If affects every aspect of our lives – social, political, cultural, spiritual, and ecological. It is transforming institutions of every kind including community, family, and our individual lifestyles. It is the century we are going to need “servant leaders,” more than ever before (p.1).

Ronald Claiborne in a 2010 article, “Benefits of practicing servant leadership” quotes Karakas (2007) as saying.

Leadership in the 21st Century must deal with problems of global uncertainty, chaos, innovation, change, dynamism, flux, speed, interconnectedness, and complexity therefore, the benefits of practicing servant leadership becomes a critical factor in any business… All leaders in the 21st Century need to be social artists, spiritual visionaries, and cultural innovators (p.1).

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Are You 21st Century Servant Leadership Literate? Part Two


Jesus washing feet of modern man wearing jeans© 2014 Used with purchased copyright permission from BIGSTOCK PHOTO

In The Steward Leader: Transforming People, Organizations and Communities, R. Scott Rodin (2010) quotes leadership expert Max DePree’s as saying, “The first responsibility of the leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the leader is a servant.” Regent University professor, Dr. Corné Bekker, in his paper Prophet and Servant: Locating Robert K. Greenleaf’s Counter-Spirituality of Servant Leadership, (2010), states that for Greenleaf, servant leaders are characterized by:

  • Being visionaries
  • Having high ethical standards
  • Doing things with excellence
  • Being persuasive
  • Relational thinking
  • Being prophetic [futuristic] imaginative
  • Ordinariness
  • Comfortable with paradox
  • Being a good listener
  • Accomplishing transformative actions

Dr. Bekker, noting that Greenleaf himself was a religious man, and described servant leaders leading as prophets by (a) healing, (b) persuading, (c) creating systems of thinking, (d) opening alternatives avenues for work, (e) serving, (f) inspiring, (g) facilitating individual and societal transformation, (h) empowering followers, (i) uniting leaders and followers, (j) building bridges between organizations and communities, and (k) by ushering in a new era of servant leadership. The intended outcome of these prophetic servant leaders is to re-imagine and reshape the social domain of leaders and organizations (p.10). Dr. Bekker concludes this paper with the observation that Greenleaf’s servant leader is a person who “Seeks to bridge the two opposing worlds of self-interested commerce and the altruistic philosophies of public service and social transformation. Greenleaf proposed that the leader is a prophet that facilitates the formation of a new vision that unites and transforms (both individually and societal). He imagined a world marked by service, equality, unity, and new possibilities of radical altruism (p.12). Continue reading

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