A good leader is one who listens to his subordinates and carries them along. He is Worker First Manager Next. The term ‘Servant Leadership’ is becoming very popular worldwide. Robert Greenleaf started this concept in 1976 in America. But now it is catching up all over the world. What is servant leadership? Servant leadership is, not taking the credit as a leader. You inspire your colleagues; you inspire your subordinates, not by preaching, but by your own example and by not mere dictating them. Just share your ideas with them inspire them and not order them. And this way you serve.
There is a beautiful book by Peter Drucker, Managing In The Next Millennium,where he says, managers and executives are going to be more and more ineffectual, with no authority whatsoever over their subordinates in the 21st Century. He attributes it to upcoming knowledge society. The 21st Century is going to be a century of knowledge. The Blue collared employees are replaced by white-collared employees. The blue-collared jobs are being done by computers and some of them are computer experts, IT Professionals. How do you control them, who have better IQ than you? You will not be able to control them through power and position and through order. But you can control them through love and the attitude of service.
Swami Vivekananda practiced servant leadership more than 100 years back, when he started Ramakrishna Mission. Swami Vivekananda gave a new, holistic way of converting work into worship. When Swamiji drafted the trust deed of Ramakrishna Math, he made his brother disciple, Swami Brahmananda as the first president. He did not become the first president; he did not take the position and power. Swamiji was not only an inspirational leader, but was also a very pragmatic one. He not only believed in ‘Servant-based Leadership’ but constantly endeavored to empower all those around him. In dealing with his brother-disciples and followers, he evoked what is today popularly known in the management world as the ‘Pygmalion Effect’. Management expert J. Sterling Livingston describes it as the effect of enabling subordinates to excel in response to the leader’s expectation of them.
Swami Vivekananda had a high expectation of his followers and he communicated that to them clearly, thus eliciting a high level of performance. Leaders empower their followers by believing in them, and they rise to greatness as a result. Swamiji had chosen ‘empower and facilitate’ philosophy over ‘command and control’ long before modern management realized its potential. Trust plays an important part in the process. If the leader does not trust his followers, he will use control instead of empowerment. Swami Vivekananda while exhorting his disciples to the highest levels of work had the fullest trust in them and their abilities. His urge to motivate people around him to aspire for higher levels of performance can be seen from this letter of his to his direct disciple Swami Shuddhananda in 1897. He writes, “…Lastly, you must remember I expect more from my children than from my brethren (his brother disciples). I want each one of my children to be a hundred times greater than i could ever be. Every one of you must be a giant – must, this is my word. Obedience, readiness, and love for the cause – if you have these three, nothing can hold you back.”
Swamiji’s call, “Arise, Awake and stop not till the goal is reached” was nothing but an attempt to empower people en-masse. J Carla Nortcutt had once said, “The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.”
Arvind Ram Kumar