The meaning of servant leadership
Van Kuik, Antoinette
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation is an initial exploration of the meaning of service in leadership as it was understood and articulated by four educational leaders who were reputed to be servant leaders. Although all the informants worked within the field of education, the research is informed by writers from a variety of perspectives such as business, education, politics, religion, and psychology. Nominations of suitable candidates were received from leaders of provincial organizations in the arts community, the public school system, the private school system, and religiously affiliated colleges. One informant from each area was then randomly selected and invited to participate. As the tentative themes emerged from the observations and interviews, they were taken into account in the subsequent research design and questions. This iterative design was used to clarify each informant's thinking about service within leadership. The questions probed the informants' motivation in leadership, their self-interests, their view of a "better society", their handling of power and position, and their relationships with other people. The data were qualitatively analysed and the emerging themes for individual informants described. I have identified four overall themes: First, the concept of servant leadership was illustrated in my informants' actions and beliefs and is helpful in understanding and describing how they related to their work. Second, my informants' service stemmed from their characters which were shaped by their individual experiences and choices. They were unique people who had found a way to know themselves, their interests, their abilities; and a way to work together with other people to benefit a larger ideal. Third, my informants were guided by dedication to an ideal which went beyond themselves and had a greater importance han any single individual. Finally, my informants related to their followers as equals in that they recognized a mutual search for meaning, they shared mundane tasks, and they brought their position into service of the ideal. In my final chapter I note three further, albeit, tentative observations about the concept of servant leadership. First, servant leadership involves a passionately held ideal which is also accepted as a morally good thing by others. Second, servant leadership involves sharing that ideal with an organization of like-minded people. Finally, servant leadership, as it should be, is not there for itself but for the sake of the ideal and, through the ideal, for other people.