Pros Cons of Servant Leadership - Transformational LeadershipPros and Cons

Over the years, when I work with leaders or students I find a great deal of confusion about certain leadership styles-servant leadership, transformational leadership, and transactional leadership. Utilizing the work of Gary Yukl, author of Leadership in Organizations, 5th Edition, I find help in clarifying those differences.

Servant Leadership

It is my understanding that Robert Greenleaf 1st proposed the idea of “servant leadership” in 1970. It then became the title of a book published in 1977. In that material he argues that service to followers is the primary responsibility of leaders and the equivalent of what he labels “ethical leadership.” Within the context of service he proposes that it would include nurturing, defending, and empowering followers. He argues that a servant leader must care for the needs of those he or she is leading, helping them to become healthier, wiser, and more willing to accept the responsibilities. Greenleaf goes on to argue that an essential characteristic of a servant leader is his or her ability to understand the follower by being a listener to the follower-learning about what they need, their hopes for the future, and their pain and frustration.Servant Leadership

In addition Greenleaf argues that a servant leader will “empower followers” instead of using power to dominate them. The word trust becomes a pivotal word by keeping the leaders actions consistent with what they proclaim to be their values and thereby showing trust in the followers.

There are similarities between Greenleaf's “servant leadership” and in what I would argue as “biblical servant leadership.” Drawing from John 13, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, we find Jesus realizing that he is Lord and yet serving the very people he is leading by washing their feet. At no time did Jesus give up his role as their Lord, yet at the same time he took on the task of serving his followers.

Pros Cons of Servant Leadership

Pros and Cons of Servant LeadershipMany could argue that servant leadership is inefficient, unnecessary, and less profitable. They would argue it is inefficient because it adds another layer of concerns to the process of making decisions and assigning responsibilities because it involves the worker and their self-interest as a key factor in the decision process. In addition they would argue it is unnecessary under the theory that if you pay the people a sufficient wage they should perform their duties appropriately. Finally they would also argue it is less profitable because it does take resources both financial and nonfinancial to ensure that the interests of the employees are covered.

In contrast, it is argued that by utilizing servant leadership the outcome of the workers effort is much higher in quality and at a higher rate of production. In other words, when the worker feels cared for they in turn feel a much higher level of loyalty to the outcome of the organization with which they work. There will be lower turnover, lower training costs, lower supervision cost, lower absenteeism, fewer errors, and the resulting increase in profit.

Transformational LeadershipTransformational Leadership

According to Gary Yukl, transformational leadership has some similarities to servant leadership. For example the followers will feel greater trust for their leaders, greater admiration and loyalty for the organization and greater levels of motivation to do well those things they are expected to do. The idea and transformational leadership is to communicate clearly and in an appealing way the vision of the organization, and how that vision might be achieved. A transformational leader will act in a confident and optimistic way expressing confidence in those he or she is leading. In transformational leadership the organization appeals to the moral values of the follower.

Leadership – Transformational or ServantLeadership – Transformational or Servant Leadership

There appears to be a great deal of overlap between these 2 theories. However, there also is a significant difference. Transformational leadership still remains to be an approach to organizational structure puting the best interest of the leaders as paramount while utilizing the moral values of employees as a tool to achieving the best interest of the leaders. However looking at servant leadership as a theory which reduces the best interest of the leaders to allow for the interest of the employees as a strategy can still include the transformational style without losing the heart of servant leadership.

By Allen H Quist 

Definition of Leadership:

Giving your heart to others by listening to their heart


When you grow a leader who values people you help the whole world

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