Monday, 4 March 2013

"The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead."
Robert Greenleaf (see Lawrence and Spears, 2002, pg 1)
The model of servant leadership was explored in 1970 by Robert Greenleaf. Greenleaf believed that successful leaders stemmed from experience as a servant to others, he explains that a true leader is motivated by a desire to help others (Lawrence and Spears, 2002).

Is president Obama a servant leader?
President Obama is often likened to Martin Luther King Junior within the media, primarily for their similarities in leadership styles. The most obvious comparison is the model of 'minority leadership' due to their physical characteristics and it's relevance to American history. However the leaders also share the innate quality of servant-leader (as described above by Greenleaf).
Throught his career President Obama has focused his campaigns upon community and the oppression of the lower classes through unfair distribution of wealth (see

Obama is described as taking a different approach to other political leaders in his speech styles (MacFarquhar, 2007 p1); he is noted to minimise his knowledge and rarely introduces a theme of policy into his speeches, instead he focuses on "small and local changes" which is based upon the immediate needs of the people rather than of the country.
Is servant-leadership reflected in Obama's church speech?
This speech emphasizes Obama's qualities and ambitions as a servant-leader. President Obama focuses the content of the speech on unity, equality and hope.
President Obama discusses the American deficit, however he elaborates by explaining that his concern is not for the financial deficit but for the "moral deficit" and the "empathy deficit". Obama explores the racial inequalities that are still prevalent in America, but also identifies the inequalities of education, healthcare and wealth distribution. The speech is empowering to the populations which are disempowered by the inequalities which Obama discusses.
Spears (2010) explains that empathy, a desire to build upon community and conceptulisation are key charactersitics of a servant-leader. Obama displays each of these characteristics during the speech at Dr. King's church. He uses the term empathy consistantly throughout the speech, focusing on the need for the American population to recognise, understand and embrace their differences as an opportunity for growth. In doing so he builds upon community spirit, not confining the term community to a small geographical location but expanding the meaning to include the community of parents, of the lower classes: a community of people with a shared interest and desire. Another likening to Martin Luther King Junior is Obama's use of conceptualisation throughtout the speech, his empahsis on his ambition to build upon hope and dreams. Obama acknowledges his critics with reference to his use of the term hope and defends his stance on the importance of hopes and dreams by referring to the infamous speeces made by Martin Luther King Junior.
Macfarquhar L (2007). The Conciliator. Available:
Accesssed 11/03/2013.

Spears L and Lawrence M (2002). Focus on Leadership: Servant-Leadership for the Twenty-First Century. New York:John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Spears L (2010). Character and Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics of Effectve, Caring Leaders. The Journal of Virtues & Leadership. Vol 1(1), 25-30.