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As we approach the twenty-first century, we are beginning to see that traditional styles of leadership are slowly yielding to a better model - one which is based on teamwork and community; one which seeks to involve others in decision making; one which is strongly based in ethical and caring behaviour; and one which is enhancing the growth of people, while at the same time improving the caring and quality of our many institutions. We call this emerging approach to leadership and service, servant-leadership.
The term "servant-leadership" was first coined in the 1970 essay by Robert K. Greenleaf entitled, The Servant as Leader. Green-leaf was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. He attended Rose Polytechnic Institute for one year before transferring to Carleton College, in Minnesota. On graduation, Robert Greenleaf went to work for AT&T, where he spent the next 40 years of his organizational life in the areas of management research, development and education at AT&T at their New York headquarters. In 1964 Greenleaf took early retirement from AT&T and launched a second career which lasted 25 years, during which time he served as an influential consultant to a number of major institutions, including: MIT, the American Foundation for Management Research, and Lilly Endowment Inc. In 1964, Greenleaf also founded the Center for Applied Ethics, which was renamed the Robert K. Greenleaf Center in 1985. Robert Greenleaf died in September 1990.
Greenleaf distilled his observations in a series of essays and books on the theme of "The servant as leader". The idea of the servant-as-leader came partly out of Greenleaf's half-century of experience in working to shape large institutions. But, the event which crystallized his thinking came in the 1960s, when he read Herman Hesse's short novel, Journey to the East. As some of you may know, Hesse's book is the story of a mythical journey by a group of people on a spiritual quest. The central figure of the story is Leo, who accompanies the party as their servant, and who sustains them with his caring spirit. All goes well with the journey until one day Leo disappears. The group quickly falls apart, and the journey is abandoned. They discover that they cannot make it without the servant, Leo. After many years of searching, the narrator of the story stumbles on Leo and is taken into the religious order that had sponsored the …