Assessment Strategies for Servant Leadership Practice in the Virtual Organization

Assessment Strategies for Servant Leadership Practice in the Virtual Organization

Darin R. Molnar (eXcolo Research Group, USA)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-958-8.ch013

Abstract

Leadership in the virtual organization presents unique opportunities and challenges for the manager. Some researchers consider management in the virtual organization to be comprised mainly of challenges while others see it as the opportunity to realize competitive advantage in the global marketplace. Several leadership approaches offer interesting options for the manager within the context of the virtual organization. One standout approach that has gained increasing popularity over the last 30 years is servant leadership in which the leader is servant first. Those managers in virtual organizations who have committed to a practice of servant leadership recognize the need for assessment instruments to help them understand the level of perceived servant leadership characteristics among organizational members under their guidance. This understanding acts as a foundation for training within this context. With this in mind, Laub’s Organizational Leadership Assessment (OLA) offers a reliable survey instrument accepted by the servant leadership practice community. The OLA is easily administered to virtual organization members as a set of Web pages and can be used in conjunction with complementary, third-party data sets such as the World Values Survey database. Future directions for the assessment of servant leadership in the virtual organization include the potential modification of the OLA, as well as the creation of survey instruments to be used in conjunction with it.
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Servant Leadership

Greenleaf’s (1970) publication of The Servant as Leader represents a Kuhnian paradigm shift in the truest sense of the term. Kuhn (1996) presents the notion that new ideas arise not from a single prophet in the wilderness, but rather from a groundswell of knowledge and research which most often culminates in a seminal publication, or publications, representing both a consolidation of knowledge and the opening of a new knowledge gateway through which others may pass. The creator of the seminal publication is often quite new to the discipline. This is where the Greenleaf story diverges from the Kuhnian concept of paradigm shift, though paradigm shift it most certainly was. Robert K. Greenleaf presented the idea of servant leadership after he had retired from AT&T where he held various leadership positions for forty years (Frick, 2004).

Greenleaf claims to have come upon the idea of servant leadership after reading Hesse’s (2003)Journey to the East in which one of the characters, Leo, plays a central role as guide to a group of Europeans traveling in Asia. After a long and arduous journey in which several characters lose their lives, the main character of the book discovers that Leo, the seemingly insignificant servant of the troupe, is actually “the titular head of the Order, its guiding spirit, a great and noble leader” (Greenleaf, 1977/2002, p. 58). At the time of Greenleaf’s epiphany, the United States was still in the throes of the social discord and violence created by the Vietnam War. Greenleaf eventually published what has become the seminal book on servant leadership, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness (Greenleaf, 1977/2002). One of Greenleaf’s fundamental goals was to create a better society by asking the rhetorical question of students he taught at Dartmouth, Harvard, and MIT: “Who is standing in the way of a larger consensus on the definition of the better society and paths to reaching it?” (Greenleaf, 1977/2002, p. 58). In the intervening years between the publication of The Servant Leader: A Journey into Legitimate Power and Greatness and now, we have seen an explosion of servant leadership publications, seminars, conferences, and university programs in the United States and abroad. Servant leadership has finally become a positive force in making our society more patient, understanding, and compassionate by transforming how leaders and managers in all sectors perform their duties and train their followers. At the foundation of this burgeoning shift is an understanding of the importance of values and the role they play in shaping the behaviors of leaders and organizational members whose initial desire is to serve others.

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