Servant Leadership: The Service of Employee Engagement

Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants. And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?

Tom Jablonski wrote a power post about servant leadership and work. There are many direct implications for those of us involved in employee engagement. The quotation at the start of this post is from Tom’s article as he quotes Robert Greanleaf on the test of a servant leader.

Here is a reposting of Tom’s original work. Any item that is bold print was done by me to emphasize the point. To read Tom’s original article, click here.
Tom Jablonski

In the movie MOON, it is the near future and astronaut Sam Bell works a solitary job on the far side of the moon. His cooperate employer Lunar Industries is mining the answer to earths energy problems – Helium-3 from the moon’s rocks.

As he nears the end of his three-year contract to keep the operations running, he experiences an accident while trying to conduct repairs to the mining equipment. Waking up in the sickbay of the moon station, he is confronted by a clone of himself.

Sam and his clone discover that the cooperation has stockpiled a multitude of incubating clones waiting to be awoken to replace them when their bodies are worn out by the end of their three-year contract. By simply replacing the workers with clones, the corporation can avoid the high costs of sending new recruits to the moon and the extensive training that would be required to replace them every three years.

The corporations of today may not have reached the levels of unethical behavior portrayed by Lunar Industries, but they are driven by the same motive that fueled it – profit. Robert Greenleaf understood well the consequences of corporations driven by profit, or money above and beyond that needed to meet their needs.

In his essay “Spirituality As Leadership” from the book SEEKER AND SERVANT, he wrote, “Another aspect of money that concerns the quest for spirituality as leadership is the problem of those who have more money then their legitimate needs require, thus giving them power over those who have less money than they think they need, including those at or below the poverty level. The power exists whether they loan the money at interest, invest it for the return of rent or dividends, speculate in some venture, hide it in a mattress, or give it away.”

For Greanleaf, the only bottom line that mattered in an organization that practiced servant leadership was his best test of the servant-leader from the essay “The Servant As Leader” in the book SERVANT LEADERSHIP – “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants. And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”

Where this best test becomes a true test and where our current corporations fail is when you expand the concept of who is served by the organization. Who is served is not just the shareholders, it is not just the CEO’s, it is not just the management, it is not just the workers, nor is it just the customers of the corporation. Those that are served needs to include all those who are touched by the consequences the corporation’s actions and operating principles.

The key question “what is the effect on the least privileged?” really gets at the need to be aware of who is served and who and what are the impacts. These consequences need to include those from the supply chain, the environmental impacts on the ecosystem and our planet, and the social and cultural impacts on the community. Our globalized corporations’ serve the profit motives well by hiding the distant impacts. As we become more aware of the consequences of these motives on our people and our planet, moving corporate operations off earth and to the moon do not seem so far fetched.

To avoid such a future, it is time to stop cloning the profit driven motive of our corporate world and it is time to stop trying to eclipse their effects with terms like “corporate social responsibility” or “the triple bottom line of profit – people – and planet”. Instead, we need to create new models of operation where we can truly be aware of our actions and truly test the resulting servant-leader institutions.

We are all leaders and I encourage you to follow the  Servant Leadership Blog. Thanks to Tom Jablonski for giving me permission to repost this wonderful article. His post exemplifies and extends one of my most basic themes in our field: employee engagement for all!

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David Zinger, M.Ed., is an employee engagement writer, educator, speaker, coach, and consultant. He offers exceptional contributions on employee engagement for leaders, managers, and employees. David founded and moderates the 2255 member Employee Engagement Network. His website offers 1000 posts/articles relating to employee engagement and strength based leadership. David is involved in the application of Enterprise 2.0 approaches to engagement and the precursor, creating engaging approaches to communication, collaboration, and community within Enterprise 2.0.

Book David for education, speaking, and coaching on engagement today for 2010.

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