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April 2012 - Transformational Servant Leadership

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Dr. John KlineMost writers on leadership tout the benefits of transformational leadership. But we must be careful to specify positive transformational leadership; i.e., servant leaders who want to help the people they lead and the organizations to which they belong. Transformational leaders without a servant heart can lead people astray. Nazi leader Adolph Hitler and Jim Jones of the People’s Temple were transformational leaders. Each of these men was charismatic, visionary, and passionate about his cause. Both had an overwhelming appeal to followers as they promised transformation. Neither possessed a servant’s heart.

Great leaders seek to serve in order to positively transform their followers and the organizations to which they belong. These leaders are guided by positive values, unswerving integrity, and a servant’s heart that puts the needs of others ahead of their own. The greatest model for this type of leadership is the one who said that “he came not to be served, but to serve.” Moses, Mother Teresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were transformational servant leaders.

A few years ago I observed friends and acquaintances retiring from leadership and management positions. Some had amassed large financial resources; some had not. Some of the financially successful leaders had been transformational servant leaders in their organizations; others had not. Some who had not been as successful financially had also been servant leaders; others had not. Now, ten or fifteen years later, I observe the same people. Those who took a servant’s approach to leadership are in better physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health than those who did not. This is true whether or not they amassed large financial resources, and most of them are still serving others. Interestingly, as long as a retiree has enough financial resources to meet the needs of his or her family, the amount of extra resources doesn’t seem to be a factor in health or current happiness.

Think about people you have known who took a transformational servant’s approach to leadership—those passionate, charismatic leaders who asked, “What can I do for others?” rather than, “What can others do for me?” Do this, and you will agree that great leaders are transformational servant leaders.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama
jkline@klinespeak.com

April 2012 - Transformational Servant Leadership
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