SUMMARIES > KEYNOTE ADDRESS: SERVANT LEADERSHIP
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MAXINE HAYES, MD, MPH
State Health Officer, Washington State Department of Health, Olympia, WA
Leadership styles change with the times. The prevailing model for the 20th century was hierarchical, with command and control leadership. This style demands conformity and predictability, which discourages creativity. It causes frustration, anger, depression, and stress on the job. The job may get done, but not well.
A new philosophy of leadership, called servant leadership, turns the hierarchy upside down. The words "servant" and "leader" are almost opposites in our normal daily world... when Robert Greenleaf put those two words together... he charted the course for making a revolution.
Power is responsibility, and it's a gift to be used for the empowerment of others and not for ourselves.
The servant leader stands at the bottom of an inverted pyramid, supporting the workers and putting their needs first. A servant leader takes pains to find out what people need to do their jobs, but also attends to peoples' satisfaction and fulfillment. The servant leader asks, do those I serve grow as people, themselves? Do they become healthier? Wiser? Do they feel more free, and more autonomous? Servant leadership has a healing influence upon individuals and institutions.
Servant leaders believe that power and authority are there for helping other people grow, not for ruling, not for exploring or gaining advantage or either setting up individuals or a group against one-another.
Several more elements are key to the concept, said Dr. Hayes.
- Acceptance of others and having empathy for them. Acceptance implies a tolerance for imperfection. Anyone can lead a group of perfect people, but no-one is perfect.
- Foresight and intuition.
- Persuasion rather than coercion. Servant leaders don't need to force others to think or see their way.
- A commitment to listening intently to others, with an open mind, welcoming creativity and surprise. A servant leader never views others' creativity as a threat to leadership. Abraham Lincoln once said that most anyone can handle adversity, but if you really want to know a person's character, give them power.
- The understanding that change often must start with the self. We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are, according to an ancient Jewish book, says Hayes (((she must have been referring to the Talmud))). A servant leader maintains awareness of both self and the world.
- Vision, and the ability to see beyond the day to day.
- An ability to exert a healing influence upon individuals and institutions... we have so many [working] people who are broken in spirit... the servant leader has the gift of healing those spirits.
- An ability to build community in the workplace... There has to be a community of caring about the work that brings everybody together.
- Practicing the art of contemplation... this is extremely hard in a society that we have because everybody's moving so fast... policy is made on the fly... in the elevators, at the water fountains... and most times for women in the bathroom.
Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King are examples of servant leadership. Gandhi had more power than the British army.
Servant leadership works because all humans have a desire to do good.
When leaders decide just to be nice to people but still keep the old command and control values, that doesn't work. People are dishonored by the command and control form of management. [It] forces people into boxes. It insists on... [conformity]... that... causes frustration, anger, depression, stress... It overlooks the capacity that people have to solve problems and the desire to serve...
Servant leadership is needed in public health, because the problems we face are very complex, and changing all the time. Servant leadership is the best way to meet this challenge because it makes maximum use of peoples' talents.