You are on page 1of 2

A true leader does not want followers; he wants to teach others how to be leaders.

He does not want control;

he wants the truth. He does not impose his leadership on others, nor does he take away anyones autonomy.
He inspires by love, not coercion. When it comes time to take credit, he makes himself invisible; but he is the
first to arrive at the time of need, and he will never shrink away in fear. He is so passionate about your welfare
that when you consult him for guidance, it is like coming face to face with yourself for the first time.

A true leader must be a living example of his teachings. When we see that a leaders personal life embodies his
philosophy, we too are inspired to learn that philosophy. Conversely, if we see that a leader does not live by
his own words, we cannot trust him.

A true leader shakes people from their reverie and tells them, No, you dont need to live a life of desperation
and confusion. Yes, you do have the ability to find meaning in your life, and the unique skills to fulfill that
meaning. You are an important link in a chain of generations past; you have a legacy worth preserving and a
future worth fighting for.

A true leader shows us that our world is indeed heading somewhere and that we control its movement. That
we need not be at the mercy of personal prejudices or the prevailing political wind. That none of us are
subservient to history or nature that we are history and nature. That we can rid the world of war and hate
and ignorance, and obliterate the borders separating race from race, rich from poor.

It is useless for a leader to be a visionary in the abstract; he must be a successful communicator whose vision
can be translated into specific, applicable principles not knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but
knowledge that can actually help improve the world.

So a leader must be many things selfless, devoted, visionary, courageous, and above all, humble. When G-d
chose Moses to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt, Moses replied, Who am I, that I should go unto
Pharaoh? (Exodus, 3:12). Indeed, Moses was humbler than any man on the face of the Earth (Numbers,

We must recognize the characteristics of a leader not only so we can weed out the demagogues, but so we
can freely embrace a true leader when he does emerge. When people sincerely believe in a leader, they rise
above their petty self-concerns. They become eager to accept his direction and input, and are inspired to
accomplish far more than they could have on their own.

By recognizing the characteristics of a true leader, we set a standard for our leaders and, more important, for
ourselves. Setting your sights on the summit, even when you have yet to arrive there, is the surest way of
completing the journey.
"The servant-leader is servant first... It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.
Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who
is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material
possessions...The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings
and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature."

"The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people's highest
priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, 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?"

Greenleaf said that "the servant-leader is servant first." By that he meant that that the desire to serve, the
"servant's heart," is a fundamental characteristic of a servant-leader. It is not about being servile, it is about
wanting to help others. It is about identifying and meeting the needs of colleagues, customers, and

Robert Greenleaf's concept of the servant-leader was stimulated by his reading of Journey to the East by
Herman Hesse. It is the story of a group of travelers who were served by Leo, who did their menial chores and
lifted them with his spirit and song. All went well until Leo disappeared one day. The travelers fell into disarray
and could go no farther. The journey was over. Years later, one of the travelers saw Leo againas the revered
head of the Order that sponsored the journey. Leo, who had been their servant, was the titular head of the
Order, a great and noble leader. In The Servant as Leader, Greenleaf said:

...this story clearly saysthe great leader is seen as servant first, and that simple fact is the key to his
greatness. Leo was actually the leader all of the time, but he was servant first because that was what he
was, deep down inside. Leadership was bestowed upon a man who was by nature a servant. It was something
given, or assumed, that could be taken away. His servant nature was the real man, not bestowed, not
assumed, and not to be taken away. He was servant first.

If there is a single characteristic of the servant-leader that stands out in Greenleaf's essay, it is the desire to
serve. A walk through The Servant as Leader provides a fairly long list of additional characteristics that
Greenleaf considered important. They include listening and understanding; acceptance and empathy;
foresight; awareness and perception; persuasion; conceptualization; self-healing; and rebuilding community.
Greenleaf describes servant-leaders as people who initiate action, are goal-oriented, are dreamers of great
dreams, are good communicators, are able to withdraw and re-orient themselves, and are dependable,
trusted, creative, intuitive, and situational.

Scholars are identifying characteristics of servant leadership in order to develop and test theories about the
impact of servant leadership