Servant Leadership and Character (Pillar I)

Servant Leadership and Character (Pillar I)

"All leadership development is character development."

~Stephen Covey

Note: I am excited and thankful to Dr. Ron Rojas and the Spirituality in the Workplace team for allowing me the opportunity to use this platform over the next few weeks to discuss a topic that is near and dear to my heart and that is Servant Leadership. In this series, we will review and highlight the seven pillars of servant leadership as described in the book, The Seven pillar of Servant Leadership: Practicing the Wisdom of Leading by Serving by Don Frick and James Sipe (2009). Please join us on this journey into Servant Leadership and learn how this leadership style can enhance and empower leaders across all industries to engage followers more authentically. Comments are always welcome!

The first pillar of servant leadership, as discussed in James Sipe and Don Frick's book, Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership, is that a Servant-Leader is a Person of Character. A Servant-Leader is one who makes insightful, moral, and high-principled decisions. More than these, a Servant-Leader;

  • Is honest, trustworthy, authentic, and humble.
  • Leads by conscience, not by ego.
  • Is filled with a depth of awareness, spirit, and enthusiasm.
  • Is committed to serving something greater than self.

Three of the primary core competencies of a Servant-Leader are integrity, humility and service to a higher purpose. How then is character defined? Is it defined by the ability to allow one's conscience- whenever it decides to kick in- to inform one's behavior and move the person to make the necessary decision? Or is it determined by an individual's flawless record of right and moral decisions? Well, I would say that we all have made mistakes.

Sipe and Frick (2009) highlighted a story to illustrate this point. Jane (a pseudonym) worked for a huge global retail and underhandedly used a consultant's detailed project proposal to create her own training initiatives. Jane couldn't sleep at night. She knew she had done something unethical, and it bothered her. In the end, she called the consultant to tell him that he would not get the contract. She did not anticipate his tears. His small consulting firm had made the finalist list to work with her global retail giant, and he had provided everything she asked for in each call Jane made. He was devastated at the news. Jane thought she could satisfy her conscience by compensating the consultant for his time and efforts. In the end, Jane did not let her conscience be her guide. She even received an enormous bonus from the supervisor who helped her rationalize her actions.

A Servant-Leader lives, loves, and leads by conscience- the internal moral awareness of what is right and what is wrong. Stephen Covey lamented that conscience is the difference between leadership that works and leadership that endures. Character can be taught and built. As a matter of fact, Joseph Badaracco said that we form our character in defining moments – many in private. Others never witness the effects of private defining moments. But when they do, they become "moments of truth (MOT)." Many times a positive MOT results in a purchase, a satisfied customer, repeat business, referrals, and good will. On the other hand, a negative MOT damages credibility, reduces trust, and compromise's the leader's effectiveness.

As a young leader, I have had many moments of truth to build my character. When I think back, I realize had I not made some mistakes I would not have been able to build the character I have today. Now instead of looking back with regret, I look back and see how far I've come in regards to character building. After all, there are many "values in action" that form the character of a Servant-Leader; maintaining integrity, demonstrating humility and service to a higher purpose. Do you have a MOT that helped to define your character? Many leadership writers have suggested that a person of character is one whose compass stays focused to "True North." Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic said,

"True North is the internal compass that guides you successfully through life. It represents who you are as a human being at your deepest level. It is your orienting point- your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track as a leader. Your True North is based on what is most important to you, your most cherished values, your passions, and motivation, the sources of satisfaction in your life."

This week, contemplate your True North. It will never lead you astray!

To Character,

Dr. Crystal

Sipe, J. W., & Frick, D. M. (2009).  Seven pillar of servant leadership: Practicing the wisdom of leading by serving.  Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

© Copyright 2015 ~Dr. Crystal J. Davis. All Rights Reserved.


Carlos Tasso Aquino's picture Carlos Tasso Aquino | March 2, 2016 10:21 am MST

It is a great first posting!


Carlos Tasso

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