Definition of a Servant Leader
Instructions: Servant leadership is a model of leadership with which all leaders in health care should be familiar. Complete the following for this assignment:
Define, describe, and discuss the concept of servant leadership and the characteristics of a servant leader.
Explain why servant leadership is important in health care.
Definition of a Servant Leader
The concept of servant leadership is quite appealing in an age where people are preoccupied with self-interest and are seemingly stuck in a perpetual rat race. Servant leadership is notably distinct from other approaches to leadership due to its deliberate decision to place other people’s aspirations and needs above one’s own. A working definition of the term is derived from Sendjaya (2015), who defines Servant leadership as:
“a holistic approach to leadership that engages both leaders and followers through its (1) service orientation, (2) authenticity focus, (3) relational emphasis, (4) moral courage, (5) spiritual motivation, and (6) transforming influence such that they are both changed into what they are capable of becoming” (p. 1).
Characteristics of a Servant Leader
In a review of different servant leadership attributes as defined by various authors, Russell & Gregory Stone (2002) found a variety of servant leadership characteristics. They found that Robert Greenleaf, whose position was that any good organizational leader must be a servant first (O’Brien, 2011, p. 14), identified the following ten traits of a servant leader. These characteristics are: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and, building community (Russell & Gregory Stone, 2002, p. 146). There are nine functional characteristics which have been quite prominent in literature concerning servant leadership attributes. These traits are vision, honesty, integrity, trust, service, modeling, pioneering, appreciation of others, and empowerment.
Importance of Servant Leadership in Health Care
Servant leadership is vital to the health care industry since the industry itself has an inherent servant nature. This means that for a health care organization to function efficiently and provide the highest quality care available, the principle of service/serving others should be espoused from the very top of the organizations. This requires a leader who can amply demonstrate ethical behavior and emotional intelligence, as well as technical competencies. Such leadership goes beyond transactional exchange to stimulate intellectual capital and engender emotional commitment of the employees (Schwartz & Tumblin, 2002).
A specific example of the impact o servant leadership on health care was provided by Jenkins & Stewart (2010) who carried out a study involving nurses. They found that attitudes and behaviors of nurse managers had a large impact on the employee job satisfaction. Nurse job satisfaction has on its part a tremendous impact on the quality of care provided and nurse turnover. It is thus in the best interest of patients, nurses and health care organizations to find means of enhancing nurse job satisfaction. The key to improving such satisfaction involves the care component going beyond the nurse caregiver and be embraced as an organization-wide managerial function. It is only managers who are committed to serving and meeting the emotional needs of their staff who will improve their job satisfaction and hence, improve the quality of care while lowering turnover-associated costs.
Jenkins, M., & Stewart, A. C. (2010). The importance of a servant leader orientation. Health Care Management Review, 35(1), 46-54.
O’Brien, M. E. (2011). Servant Leadership in Nursing. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Russell, R. F., & Gregory Stone, A. (2002). A review of servant leadership attributes: Developing a practical model. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 23(3), 147-157.
Schwartz, R. W., & Tumblin, T. F. (2002). The power of servant leadership to transform health care organizations for the 21st-Century economy. Archives of Surgery, 137(12), 1419-1427.
Sendjaya, S. (2015). Personal and Organizational Excellence through Servant Leadership. Caulfield East, Victoria, Australia: Springer.