Servant leadership is a command to serve first and lead second; to put another’s aspirations and needs above their own (Greenleaf, 1977). Larry Spears (2004) extracted ten characteristics of a servant leader from Greenleaf’s works: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community. This study is to examine several of these traits, how they were applied by a servant leader to transform the Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) experience, and the overall affects of these qualities on the triple bottom line: the employer of choice, provider of choice, and the investment of choice (Blanchard & Ken Blanchard Companies, 2010).
From Angst to Enjoyment: A Servant Leader’s Business Transformation
In general, leaders have two roles within an organization: vision and implementation (Vinod & Sudhakar 2011) or strategic leadership and operational implementation (Blanchard & Ridge, 2009). The area of strategic leadership is where leaders define the direction and communicate the mission, values and beliefs that the business aspires for its people (Vinod & Sudhakar 2011). Operational implementation is how the organization will make the vision happen and is also where the servant leaders make their differentiation (Blanchard & Ridge, 2009). Ken Blanchard details an experience with a particular DMV where a new director has used several of Greenleaf’s (2004) servant leader traits including awareness, persuasion, conceptualization and foresight to turn a once dreaded experience into one of enjoyment and pleasure thus positively affecting the leader’s job, employees, customers and the overall organization.
The Servant Leader
A servant leader’s self-awareness as well as a general awareness aids in their ability to resolve ethical and values based issues (Spears, 2004). Self- awareness involves the leader’s overall extent to which they are know their own thoughts, beliefs, values and strengths (Vinod & Sudhakar 2011) which ultimately provides them internal confidence and comfort without seeking it from others (Spears, 2004). We see this in the case of the DMV director by where his desk is located. Blanchard (2010) describes the director’s desk as being out in the open and in the middle of everything. This shows us that the director understood his strengths as a leader perhaps including his openness, willingness to help and serve others over personal privacy and engagement.
The ability to convince rather than coerce is perhaps one of the greatest distinctions of a servant leader versus a traditional leader (Spears, 2004). Persuasion is the ability to motivate others to execute change (Stueber, 2000). During Blanchard’s (2010) experience at the DMV he remarks that the employees were committed due to a motivating environment. This comment was in relation to the director’s ability to persuade and motivate a change in lunch hours to better staff for the times of highest traffic. Motivation was also noticeable in the positive greetings from each of the teammates in which Blanchard came into contact, which was a change from Blanchard’s prior experience before the director had taken a job there.
Conceptualization is a leader’s ability to think beyond the day-to-day issues (Spears, 2004). Spears (2004) relates it to a constant balance between dreaming big and handling the daily focus. The first change that the new director of the DMV made when coming into the job was cross-training each of the employees in every role within the department (Blanchard & Ken Blanchard Companies, 2010). That meant that even the accountants or secretaries could help in the front offices and vice versa. The director was able to see past a daily strain on the team and implemented a way that the organization