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Servant-Leadership Learning Community

What is Servant-Leadership?

“The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit, or, at least, not be further deprived?” - from The Servant as Leader, Robert K. Greenleaf

With that definition in 1970, retired AT&T executive Robert K. Greenleaf (1904-1990) coined the term servant-leadership and launched a quiet revolution in the way in which we view and practice leadership. Four decades later the concept of servant-leadership is increasingly viewed as an ideal leadership form to which untold numbers of people and organizations aspire. In fact, we are witnessing today an unparalleled explosion of interest in, and practice of, servant-leadership.

We are experiencing a rapid shift in many businesses and not-for-profit organizations-- away from the more traditional autocratic and hierarchical models of leadership and toward servant-leadership as a way of being in relationship with others. Servant-leadership seeks to involve others in decision-making, is strongly based in ethical and caring behavior, and enhances the growth of workers while improving the caring and quality of organizational life.

The words servant and leader are usually thought of as being opposites. In deliberately bringing those words together in a meaningful way, Robert Greenleaf gave birth to the paradoxical term “servant-leadership.” In the years since then, many of today’s most creative thinkers are writing and speaking about servant-leadership as an emerging leadership paradigm for the twenty-first century. The list is long and includes: James Autry, Warren Bennis, Peter Block, John Carver, Stephen Covey, Max DePree, Joseph Jaworski, James Kouzes, Larraine Matusak, Parker Palmer, M. Scott Peck, Peter Senge, Peter Vaill, Margaret Wheatley, and Danah Zohar, to name but a few of today’s cutting edge leadership authors and advocates of servant-leadership. In her groundbreaking book on quantum sciences and leadership, Rewiring the Corporate Brain (Berrett-Koehler, 1997), Zohar goes so far as to state that, “Servant-leadership is the essence of quantum thinking and quantum leadership.” (p. 146)

What do these concepts mean for us in the early 21st century at UW-Madison? How might Servant-Leadership inspire us, instruct us, and otherwise guide us in the quest to make important decisions around complex issues?

Servant Leadership Study Group and Workshop with Larry Spears

There was a three session study group that led up to a Servant Leadership Workshop with Larry Spears. The workshop was held on February 8, 2011 in the Memorial Union. Larry Spears is, without a doubt, the best person we could have asked to guide us in the journey to make important decisions around complex issues. After many years as the Director of the Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership, Larry now leads the Spears Center for Servant-Leadership (Indianapolis), presenting and teaching around the country on these important concepts. He is also Servant-Leader Scholar at Gonzaga University (Spokane), where he teaches graduate courses in servant-leadership, and where he is Senior Advisory Editor of The International Journal of Servant-Leadership. Larry is the editor/author of a dozen books, including the best-selling Insights on Leadership. We were pleased to welcome Larry for a day with us, filled with challenging ideas, excellent conversation, and spirited exploration of resources that helped us find worthy pathways together.

Check out the Servant Leadership Study Group Readings!

Meetings and Workshops

The Servant-Leadership Learning Community meets regularly and will sponsor additional workshops.
Check this site for information about future meetings and workshops!

Servant-Leadership Resources:

1. The UW Servant Leadership Wiki - Learn more about Servant Leadership! Click on Resources for a list of recommended books and links to other Servant Leadership sites!

2. Pieper Servant Leadership at UW Madison

3. UW Madison Student Leadership Center (SLC) - Through the College of Engineering 

4. Kelvin Redd's Blog about Servant Leadership

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