A conceptual framework for measuring servant-leadership

Page, D., & Wong, P. T. P. (2000). A conceptual framework for measuring servant leadership. In S. Adjibolooso (Ed.), The human factor in shaping the course of history and development. American University Press.


Among the many leadership styles (i.e., authoritarian, benevolent dictatorship, participatory, etc.) the one that best represents the ideals embodied in the human factor (HF) is servant-leadership.

Servant-leadership incorporates the ideals of empowerment, total quality, team building, and participatory management, and the service ethic into a leadership philosophy.

Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership (1997, p. 4), this model of leadership emphasizes “increased service to others; a holistic approach to work; promoting a sense of community; and the sharing of power in decision making.”

The concept of servant-leadership

Religious terms such as God, soul, and spirit and psychological concepts such as personal growth, selfawareness, and identify are mixed with management “buzz words” such as flat organization and shared vision.

to learn servant leadership, individuals need to undergo a journey of self-discovery and personal transformation.

servant-leader may be defined as a leader whose primary purpose for leading is to serve others by investing in their development and well being for the benefit of accomplishing tasks and goals for the common good.

Arlene Hall (1991, p. 14) has observed that “Doing menial chores does not necessarily indicate a servant leader. Instead a servant leader is one who invests himself or herself in enabling others, in helping them be and do their best.”

In servant-leadership, self-interest gives way to collective human development.

What distinguishes servant-leaders from others is not the quality of the decisions they make, but how they exercise their responsibility and whom they consult in reaching these decisions.

traditional forms of leadership are inadequate for motivating today’s people to follow.

People and process will always be more important than tasks and organizational structure in accomplishing goals and productivity. Effective systems and processes are only effective if the people who make them work are effective.

Servant-leaders motivate followers through investing in them and empowering them to do their best

People-orientation describes how the servant-leader relates to others; it is concerned with the social emotional aspects of leadership. Having a people-orientation means more than people skills, because it involves having a heart for others and showing an interest in developing their potential

Process-orientation deals with how the servant-leader impacts organizational processes through modeling, team building, and open decision-making

Table 5.1 The contrast between command-leadership and servant-leadership

  • Seeks to enable subordinates to advance to their fullest potential by downplaying self and exalting others. The team or enterprise and all its members are considered and promoted before self.
  • Encourages input and feedback and shares credit for the results. Process is as important as accomplishments.
  • Are willing to step aside for someone more qualified.
  • Leadership development is a high priority in serving others.

According to Kouzes and Posner (1993, p. 185), Leaders we admire do not place themselves at the center; they place others there. They do not seek the attention of people; they give it to others. They do not focus on satisfying their own aims and desires; they look for ways to respond to the needs and interests of their constituents. They are not self-centered, they concentrate on the constituent…. Leaders serve a purpose and the people who have made it possible for them to lead…. In serving a purpose, leaders strengthen credibility by demonstrating that they are not in it for themselves; instead, they have the interests of the institution, department or team and its constituents at heart.

In this new organizational structure, the leader becomes the soft glue that holds the organization together as a virtual community working together.

Everyone is part of a team working to the same end in which people play different roles at different times, according to their expertise and assignment rather than their position or title.

In essence, servantleadership represents a pull rather than a push model of vision attainment.

Stephen Covey (1998, p. xii) also points out that under servant-leadership, workers are driven by “. . . inner motivation towards achieving a common purpose . . . . The leader does this by engaging the entire team organization in a process that creates a shared vision that inspires each to stretch and reach deeper within themselves and to use their unique talents in whatever way is necessary to independently and interdependently achieve that shared vision.”

servant-leaders promote shared vision, a concept that has gained increasing acceptance (e.g., Greenleaf, Covey, Senge, Block, McGee-Cooper, etc.).

Leadership of the future

In the organization of the future, leadership will be more widely distributed than centralized, but no less competent in producing results. Perhaps the analogy of a championship rowing team will help clarify the process.

The point is that there is no one person who is designated as “the” leader. The role shifts according to the activity and stage of the team

As Hammer (1996, pp. 11-13) has described it so well in Beyond Reengineering: It just won’t do for each person to be concerned exclusively with his or her own limited responsibility, no matter how well these responsibilities are met .When that occurs, the inevitable result is working at cross-purposes, misunderstandings, and the organization of the part at the expense of the whole. Process work requires that everyone involved be directed toward a common goal; otherwise, conflicting objectives and parochial agendas impair the effort . . . . A company [or any other organization or group effort] that does not resolutely focus on its customers [or members or recipients] and on the processes that produce value for its customers is not long for this world.

Leaders become the cheerleaders, facilitators, and otherwise supporters for making those objectives happen through the efforts of others. As Ken Blanchard has pointed out concerning the leader of the future: “When you turn the pyramid upside down . . . the people become responsible, and the job of management is to be responsive to them. . . . If you work for your people, your purpose as a leader is to help them accomplish their goals” (1996, p. 85).

leadership does not mean that leaders just work for followers who decide what when, where, and how to do something

Servant-leadership is consultative, relational and self-effacing in nature.

we must think more collectively of a leadership that occurs among and through many people who think and act together on the entire process. It results in cross-functional teams whose decisions, designed to enhance the mission of the institution, will bring together a wider range of interests and lead to more creative solutions than would likely come from an individual leader.

The current popularity of servant-leadership

The modern notion of servant-leadership was certainly popularized, if not invented, by Robert K. Greenleaf

The servant’s motivation was “. . . to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served” (Greenleaf, 1997, p. 13).

numerous authors have sought to explain and extend the paradigm of servant-leadership (e.g., Greenslade, 1984; Habecker, 1990; Hildebrand, 1990; Miller, 1987; Pollard, 1996; Sims, 1997; William, 1996).

Larry C. Spears on “Servant-Leadership: Toward a New Era of Caring.”(Spears, 1994).

(Hesselbein, Goldsmith, & Beckhard, 1996).

Need for measuring servant-leadership

The Greenleaf Center says that “the best test is: Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to be servants?” (Spears, 1994, p. 156).

high standards serve the dual purpose of encouraging the pursuit of excellence and monitoring progress.

Measuring the profile of servant-leadership

Kouzes (1998) maintains that “leadership isn’t a position; it’s a process. It’s an observable, understandable, learnable set of skills and practices available to everyone anywhere in the organization.”

Clark and Clark (1992) concluded that leadership behaviors are transferable and that the effects of training tend to persist.

The four orientations of servant-leadership

Servant-leaders are more concerned with producing results rather than protecting their own ego and they are aware of their limitations; therefore, they are willing to step aside and let the most qualified people do the job as demanded by the situation.

We also calculated the alpha2 values for each sub-scale as well as the total assessment score. The alpha coefficients were as follows: Total (0.937), Integrity (0.796), Humility (0.656), Servanthood (0.761), Caring for Others (0.714), Empowering Others (0.765), Developing Others (0.916), Visioning (0.569), Goal-setting (0.768), Leading (0.837), Modeling (0.763), Team-Building (0.815), and Shared Decision-Making (0.802).


  • Blanchard, K. (1996). “Turning the Organizational Pyramid Upside Down.” In F. Hesselbein, M. Goldsmith and R. Beckhard, eds. The Leader of the Future: New Visions, Strategies, and Practices for the Next Era. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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