This paper is a critique of the thought provoking, if not problematic, ideas presented in Robert Greenleaf’s pamphlet, The Servant as Leader (Greenleaf, 2008) which appeared in print in the 1970’s. This text constituted the seminal work upon which a progressive, transformational movement was created in the training of management cadres in North American companies, with the transition of the concept of a “leader boss” to that of “leader as a servant”. The limits of Greenleaf’s servant leadership model are tested against the capitalist society within which we live and found contradictory, but no less inspiring in its attempt to humanize both the leader and the corporate world. There is a clear contradiction in Greenleaf’s desire to eliminate the competition laws of the market while maintaining faith in capitalism. The principles of rehumanizing the corporate world are often more a process of corporate advertising, or virtue signaling, than the actual reality of the corporate world.
The very breadth of Greenleaf’s expansive insight provokes the need for two tests, or rather two critical approaches, which require further investigation. The two critical lines I propose are (i) on the spiritual principles of Servant Leadership and (ii) on the effectiveness of Servant Leadership as a governance tool within a competitive, capitalist environment.
"Robert Greenleaf: Changing Management to Change Society,"
Journal of Vincentian Social Action: Vol. 7:
1, Article 6.
Available at: https://scholar.stjohns.edu/jovsa/vol7/iss1/6
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