Course pedagogy invited me to participate in a course that increased my knowledge of the concepts of servant-leadership, a better understanding of how to effectively interact with others in an organizational setting, a clearer insight into how relationships are the key to effectiveness of individuals and organizations, and a strengthened ability to articulate a personal, servant-centered philosophy of leadership. The key learning within this class invited me to develop an enhanced conceptualization and understanding of the principles of servant-leadership, an awareness of the dynamics of relational leadership and insight to developing my own leadership approach. This servant-leadership course examined the foundational principles, and practice of servant-leadership. Course competencies required demonstration of my ability to 1) assume the role of a servant-leader-in-training 2) conceptualize and articulate the philosophy of servant-leadership 3) key assumptions of servant-leadership such as definitions and characteristics of servant-leadership and the moral test of servant-leadership 4) conceptualize servant-leadership by explaining the philosophy of servant-leadership to others and apply and interpret servant-leadership concepts with others 5) analyze a leader and/or organizational system using servant-leadership criteria provided by providing evidence of characteristics and criteria for servant-leaders and using human development theories; applying human development models as criteria for identifying servant-leaders; assessing leadership styles; tracking dependence-independence-interdependence; evidence of understanding servant-leadership in terms of organizational development 6) articulate a personal, servant-centered philosophy of leadership by reflecting on the moral aspects of servant-leadership; reflecting on my own organizational experience with or without servant-leaders and interpreting my experience within the context of servant-leadership and develop a plan of personal leadership development for the future 7) plan, propose, and prepare to implement the philosophy of servant-leadership through a servant-leadership development program within a work situation by designing a servant-leadership development plan for others or for an organization.
During the eight weeks of this course I intellectually opened my mind to the paradigm of servant-leadership. In an e-mail dialogue with Professor Larry Spears (www.spearscenter.org) I asked a question oft-considered but rarely invited in one’s conceptual understanding of servant-leadership: what if someone acts like a servant-leader but has never formally heard the term servant-leadership? This is commonplace where individuals are authentically committed to a mission and very effective at reflecting a servant-led commitment though they do not recognize servant-leadership as an underlying philosophy. Struggling with this concept, Professor Spears helped me understand Robert K. Greenleaf’s quote: The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? (Greenleaf, 1970). Feeling more like a blockhead then a graduate student it would take another year of study on servant-leadership to conceptually understand and allow this dialogue to reveal itself in my life. Now, I can identify servant-leaders though I do with caution recognizing the power of the philosophy in society.
The foundational studies of this course led to my ability to apply servant-leadership within my studies on prematurity. It led to my graduate school final project where I presented to approximately fifteen founders and executive directors of prematurity support organizations nationwide. More importantly, I have learned the great power held within this philosophy and humbly and carefully embed it within dialogue so not to overwhelm leaders in society.
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