Does Transformational Servant Leadership Work in the Corporate Setting?

There have been a lot of leadership fads. Some of them just die away without even getting enough attention to take off. Yet, every now and then, we come across some interesting concepts and ideas that could revolutionize leadership in the workplace. Two such trends in contemporary times are transformational leadership and servant leadership.

On the one hand, transformational leadership is an approach that seeks to create positive change in the minds and habits of followers or subordinates. In transforming himself and those who follow him, the leader then is able to create an organization that fosters helping each other, encouraging one another and looking out for the welfare of the whole organization. The transformational leader is concerned in the motivation, morale and performance of the individuals who make up the organization.

Similarly, servant leadership focuses on the leader as the servant and not the big boss who should be served. This is actually a radical thinking that was coined by Greenleaf. The concept has been there all along but it only gained traction and widespread support in beginning in the 1960s. Since then servant leadership had amassed support from authors and writers such as Stephen Covey, M. Scott Peck and Peter M. Senge among others.

What if you bring the two kinds of leadership style together, what would happen? It becomes a hybrid of transformational servant leadership. There comes with it a shift of perspective and approach in leadership. The leader is a servant first, but he has a definite agenda in mind. He serves to transform!

In serving, the leader is able to shift the focus away from profits, performance and other related matters in the organization. Instead, the leader manages to create a service and others-first oriented atmosphere within the organization. This would then lead to a transformation in the thinking of the followers. The motivation is shifted. The followers’ morale is lifted and performance is enhanced in the process.

But the big question is, will this work in the corporate setting?

The answer is not so straightforward. While being the servant, the leader who chooses to use this hybrid style should also be mindful of results, performance indicators and the overall health and situation of the organization. This way, the leader does not only enjoy being the servant but he also becomes an effective and astute manager.

This hybrid style of leadership could also breed a different kind of comfort zone, which might be difficult to break from. If this approach is no longer working, the leader should have the guts and the courage to make important changes. Otherwise, the organization will suffer.