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Servant Leadership: The Effective Leader
Raymond L. Swallows
Saint Leo University
The theory of Servant Leadership is by no means a new philosophy. The term “Servant
Leadership” was coined by Robert Greenleaf in 1970 through a series of publications relating to
leaders as servants. Of course, Servant Leadership is not an analogy referring literally to
management and leadership “serving” their subordinates. Rather, it is intended to convey that
leaders provide service to others and develop a sense of community within their ranks, including
sharing the responsibility for decision making with the practitioners. That does not mean that
subordinates will ultimately make the important decisions delegated to leadership, but it allows
the rank and file to have input into tough decisions which will promote understanding and
acceptance of potential changes. Another very important element of this philosophy is employee
development. A true leader is not only interested in getting the job done effectively and
efficiently with unanimous support from staff, but is also responsible to essentially be crafting
and mentoring their replacement for the future. In this paper, Servant Leadership will be
thoroughly discussed and applied to real-life scenarios showing the importance of servant traits
and employee development qualities in effective and positive leaders.
Servant Leadership: The Effective Leader
What is Servant Leadership?
The term “Servant Leadership” was developed and published by Robert Greenleaf in
1970 in essays and books aptly named “The Servant as a Leader.” (Spears, 1996) According to
Spears (1996), Greenleaf coined the term after having read a novel by Herman Hesse called
“Journey to the East.” The novel regarded a group of people on a sort of spiritual quest in which
the primary character in the fictional plot was Leo, the servant. Spears (1996) continued that Leo
promoted cohesion within the group and one day, when Leo disappeared, the group fell apart and
the journey was ceased. The group had discovered sans Leo, they could not sustain themselves.
Spears (1996) said the narrator of the book found Leo—many years later—and was welcomed in
the religious group that had originally sponsored the spiritual journey. Within the group, the
narrator discovered that Leo, which he had known as the servant to the group, was actually the
group’s leader and head of the group.
While not specifically known what the initial basic idea of the novel was, Greenleaf’s
takeaway was that a “…great leader is first experienced as a servant to others, and that this
simple fact is central to his or her greatness.” (Spears, 1996, p. 1) Greenleaf also believed that a
real leader finds his or her motivation from a healthy yearning to help or assist others. Greenleaf
spent 40 years of his adult life working on issues of management research and leadership
development. (Spears, 1996) Midway through his career, Greenleaf founded the Center for
Applied Ethics, later renamed the Robert K. Greenleaf Center.
Based on the information provided by Spears (1996), it is clear that Greenleaf developed
the theory of Servant Leadership from a fictional story which had a powerful message of what a
true leader is. Whether a person works in law enforcement or corrections, private industry, or is a
student, the core requirements to be a leader remain consistent. In order to be considered a
leader, one must first gain the trust and respect of those being led. Neither of those “things” are
freely given; they must be earned. Usually, when a person considers the term “leader,” they
envision someone who is managing a group or organization. However, leaders do not necessarily
have to be in the management arena to be leaders. Many times, leaders are peers, coworkers, or
even siblings who exhibit the ability to effectively garner the trust and admiration of those who
they influence. These “leaders” are willing to take on the same tasks and situations they would
have others engage in, as proof that they will do whatever it takes to “get the job done.”
While Greenleaf coined the term “Servant Leadership,” the concept of Servant
Leadership has roots in ancient history. In an article published in the Review of International
Comparative Management, Franco Gandolfi, Seth Stone, and Frank Deno discussed Servant
Leadership in depth. According to Gandolfi et al. (2017), ancient monarchies “…acknowledged
their leadership was in service of their people and country.” (p. 351) Gandolfi et al. (2017) went
on to describe their beliefs with regard to a Servant Leader. They described Servant Leaders as
neither disengaged nor weak, are ambitious and proactive just the same as other leaders are, but
differentiate from others leadership styles by focusing on the follower before the mission.
(Gandolfi et al., 2017).
Styles of Leadership Study
Between 2007-2008, a survey was given to more than 120 law enforcement professionals
who attended a management course at the Southern Police Institute in Kentucky. The survey was
designed to determine what the best and most effective style of leadership was based on the
opinions of the law enforcement managers surveyed. Researchers Gennaro Vito and Geetha
Suresh of the University of Louisville, Kentucky, and George Richards of Edinboro University
of Pennsylvania, conducted the study and analyzed the results. The responses from those
surveyed centered on three types of leadership styles:
1. Autocratic Leadership: Gaining and maintenance of power and authority are of utmost
importance in this style of leadership. This “leader” makes all important decisions and
does not involve the group or subordinates in the decision making process.
2. Laissez-Faire Leadership: This form of “leader” is uninvolved and acts as little more than
an information-sharing person, transmitting the organizational directives and edicts to the
masses. This leader has virtually no control over how things work and the organization is
largely autonomous.
3. Servant Leadership: As previously stated, this leader is involved with his or her
employees or followers, develops relationships, trust, and respect with those who’ve
trusted him or her to lead them and consults with them to make decisions, seeking input
and ideas. (Vito, Suresh, & Richards, 2010)
The results of the study showed the surveyed law enforcement managers overwhelmingly
identified Servant Leadership as the preferred leadership style. With consideration to the fact that
law enforcement—police and corrections—have long been considered an autocracy, the study
results show an emerging trend amongst new law enforcement managers/leaders that employ a
mutual respect, servant-style of leadership that is mutually beneficial to both the organization
and the individual. (Vito et al., 2010)
While there are a myriad of leadership styles—spanning virtually every form in
existence—it is my belief that Servant Leadership is the most effective and positive method of
leadership available. While opinions vary, it is my belief that sometimes, true leaders are born
that way. Granted, there are leaders that are developed by virtue of someone’s recognition of
specific qualities an individual displays that are recognizable of positive leaders. But, when
looking back through the lens of history at known great leaders such as Abraham Lincoln,
George Washington, and Winston Churchill, they all exhibited fantastic leadership qualities,
including fearlessness, perseverance, and devotion to their plans or goals. In law enforcement or
corrections, organizational leadership must have a basis in Servant Leadership. In order to fulfill
a successful mission of excellence and service, future leadership must be fostered and developed.
As previously stated, sometimes leaders are simply born that way. However, being the exception
not the rule, organizations have a responsibility to foster their future leaders and assist in their
Gandolfi, F., Stone, S., & Deno, F. (2017). Servant leadership: An ancient style with 21st century
relevance. Revista De Management Comparat International, 18(4), 350-361. Retrieved
Spears, L. (1996). Reflections on robert K. greenleaf and servant-leadership. Leadership &
Organization Development Journal, 17(7), 33-35. Retrieved from
Vito, G. F., Suresh, G., & Richards, G. E. (2011). Emphasizing the servant in public service: The
opinions of police managers. Policing, 34(4), 674-686.
Participative Leadership Theory
Alexander Hauryluck
Saint Leo University
Many tactics may be used in a leadership setting that will generate results. One of the most
beneficial tactics, however, is through the use of the participative leadership theory. This
leadership tactic provides subordinates with an opportunity to work as a group, along with the
superior to generate an inclusive and discussion-based decision through the evaluation of group
member’s opinions. Due to the delegative nature of participative leadership, leaders who
participate in this style of leadership are more inclusive to the suggestions of subordinates and
allow for others to have a strong influence on decision making. Participative leadership plays a
key role in correctional leadership by establishing trust in supervisors, procedures, and allows for
subordinates to participate in critical decisions.
Keywords: participative leadership, corrections, attitude, motivation, influence, trust,
According to Gladwin & McConnell, participative leadership is when plans and decisions
are made with the group or a team. The role of the supervisor in participative leadership is to
offer advice, information, assistance, and a positive attitude. However, the supervisor has already
made a decision to accept whatever outcome is decided by the group (2014). Participative
leadership is popular among leaders because it allows for subordinates to participate fully in
decision making and allows those subordinates to learn and participate in real-world scenarios.
This leadership style sill utilizes an authority figure, but the authority is working with his or her
group, not telling the group what actions to take.
Participative Leadership
Participative leadership has a significant focus on people and group discussion and may
utilize the Vroom-Yetton model (Lang, 2014). This emphasis on group participation is especially
favored in diverse working environments with a rich diversity in culture and empowerment
(Lang, 2014). According to Lang, participative leadership is, “certainty an alternatively available
style of leadership behavior, with partly normative and positive connections and a respective
positive effect on the quality of decisions, workers’ satisfaction, followers’ commitment, and
moral attitudes,… and different cultural setting” (2014).
In order for an individual to indeed lead others, the leader must display several
personality traits in an attempt to avoid becoming an authoritative leader. Qualities such as high
energy, empathy, charisma, maturity, and intuitiveness all contribute to a leader’s ability to
gather a following based on trust (United States Air Force, 2019). Real leaders will, “be visible
and available, spending most of the time where really needed, show concern for the employee’s
problems, maintain a true open-door attitude so that employees can always access the supervisor
when necessary, and provide immediate feedback to let all employees know exactly where they
stand” (Gladwin & McConnell, 2014, p. 40).
Character Traits
According to Campbell, delegative leadership styles such as participative, are not
represented within team-leaders and balance of roles because it requires the election of a
delegation team and an authoritative figure (2006). However, through participative leadership,
“improved decision quality, enhanced employee commitment, increased perception of control,
and acceptance of organizational change for overall organizational success” will be achieved,
and therefore will provide the leader with adequate support from his or her subordinates, and the
subordinates will be supplied with sufficient leadership and participation to feel valued
(Chhophel, 2015, p. 5).
In a study that compared leadership styles between men and women in the military, it was
concluded that leaders in the military are more likely to utilize a participative leadership style
rather than a directive leadership style (Kara A. Arnold & Loughlin, 2013). This study is
necessary to analyze because it provides specific examples of participative leadership being most
effective in high-stress environments. The importance of allowing others a vital role in making
decisions is uncanny about other leadership models. Participative leadership is an effective
leadership style because it incorporates the leader and authority figure in with the group. It forces
leaders and subordinates to work together, and as a result, better decisions, organization,
cooperation, collaboration, and effectiveness is achieved..
Correctional Leadership
In corrections, leaders are responsible for not only his or her team and group but also the
corrections agency or department he or she works for (Campbell, 2006). A key component of
ensuring effective leadership through these various aspects is the establishment of trust. Through
trust, a leader can establish respect between him or herself and his or her subordinates, and the
group to the leader (Campbell, 2006). Also, Chief Jason Sharp from Parsons, Kansas states the
three most important leadership attributes in criminal justice is attitude, motivation, and
influence (CorrectionsOne, 2016). These three characteristics encompass all of the necessary
leadership tactics necessary to lead individuals in the high stress and rapidly changing
environments of law enforcement and corrections.
Character Traits
When participative leadership is in practice, the group’s attitude is essential to take notice
of because it will directly relate to and impact the outcome and decision. If the group’s outlook is
positive and intrigued, the decision will be positive. Contrarily, if the group’s attitude is negative,
the decision will be adverse and may generate further issues. It is crucial to address potential
negative attitudes and stressing the importance of influence a group member’s perspective will
have on other group members. It is just as imperative for the leader to influence the group with
positivity and lead by example by being actively involved in the group discussion
(CorrectionsOne, 2016).
The third and arguably most important aspect of a successful leader in corrections is the
motivational principle of the leader. Leaders are tasked with not only teaching others how to
achieve a goal or learn a new trait but also motivate those individuals into becoming better at his
or her role. Through participative leadership, the leader has the unique ability to show his or her
team members he or she is willing to work toward a common goal physically. This also
establishes expectations for subordinates (CorrectionsOne, 2016). Another critical component of
motivation is leading by example. Leading by example is an essential tool in leadership,
especially in the field of corrections. A leader should not ask his or her subordinate to fulfill a
task, assignment, or job function without being willing to do the same task him or herself
(CorrectionsOne, 2016).
Participative Leadership and Corrections
Leading from the front and setting high standards will ensure groups will maintain a level
of excellence throughout all job functions. Leading by example is built into participative
leadership because it encompasses the help of a leader and encourages leaders to participate in
all aspects of decision making with the group. In the field of corrections, many complex
situations need resolutions. By utilizing the experience and advice of leaders and superiors, as
well as through the first-hand knowledge of subordinates and those on the floor, participative
leaders have the unique ability to collaborate with a group and discuss together the most
effective and efficient plan based on everyone’s opinion rather than the supervisor alone.
In direct relation to correctional leadership, participative leadership provides subordinates with
the ability to work as a group and discuss the future of a situation, discuss new procedures or
tactics to implement, or address solutions to a problem while being coached by a leader and
superior The role of the superior is no longer to give orders, but to provide guidance, direction,
and advice where necessary and allow the group to create a decision. After the decisions made,
the leader is given the opportunity to review the decision, adjust what is required, and then
implement the resolution into practice with the support from his or her subordinates, and with the
trust from the group.
Effective leadership in corrections will directly relate to the effectiveness of procedures,
the safety of the individuals working and living within the facility, and quality of work those
individuals are capable of providing to the inmates. Through the group discussion and substantial
impact of group members opinions, leaders are given the unique opportunity to lead by example
in all aspects of decision making. Participative leaders develop trust between him or herself and
his or her subordinates and create a team atmosphere which values collaboration, teamwork,
discussion, and respect.
Campbell, N. M. (2006). Correctional Leadership Competencies for the 21st Century Manager
and Supervisor Levels. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice National Institute of
School of Management QUT Business School .
CorrectionsOne. (2016, July 26). 3 key aspects of leadership. Retrieved from
Gladwin, B. P., & McConnell, C. R. (2014). The effective corrections manager: correctional
supervision for the future. Burlington, MA: jones & Bartlett Learning.
Kara A. Arnold, & Loughlin, C. (2013). Integrating transformational and participative versus
directive leadership theories: Examining intellectual stimulation in male and female
leaders across three contexts. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol
34(1), 67-84.
Lang, R. (2014). Participative leadership in cross-cultural leadership research: A
misconception? Hampp Verlag.
United States Air Force. (2019, March 8). Small business administration. Retrieved from
Leadership traits:
Trait Leadership
Abodunrin Oduyemi
Saint Leo University
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