The Problems With Servant Leadership - Why It Hasn't Impacted Leadership Success In Over 50 Years

The Problems With Servant Leadership - Why It Hasn't Impacted Leadership Success In Over 50 Years

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There is a lot that I enjoy about the Servant Leadership Model.

In the world of Leadership Development, it is one of the better types that exist.

Originally coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in an Essay called The Servant As Leader, published in 1970, it became the basis for frameworks that are still used today.

But for all its merits, there are reasons that it generally hasn't led to Leadership Success in over 50 Years.

Is it because Servant Leadership is Inherently Bad or Wrong?

Absolutely Not!

Many of the concepts I use with Clients myself.

So what are the Problems then?

The first major flaw of Servant Leadership is that it is a Skills-Based Model.

The original concepts taught things like the Importance of Awareness, Foresight, and Listening.

Since then, others have expanded to include things like Putting People First, Becoming a Skilled Communicator, Being a Compassionate Collaborator, and using Systems Thinking.

But all of these are taught through Skills.

What is the Problem with this?

Skills are easily Hijacked by our Psychophysiology.

As I've said before, Leadership is a Physical Game.

When our Psychophysiology is messed up, our Leadership Skills become Completely Compromised.

I have seen Leaders who had "All the Skills" and trained with the "Top Experts", yet they still found themselves Consistently Failing.

Our Skills become Useless when our Bodies are not Fit to Lead.

However, this is not the only Problem.

The Servant Leadership Model has an Underlying Belief that if "I" as the Leader Serve others, others will naturally Follow and Serve as well.

Or as kids like to say, Monkey See, Monkey Do.

There is a "Partial" Truth to this.

When we Model Behavior, it is more likely others will do Similar Behavior.

I talk about the Importance of being an Exemplar frequently which is the same concept.

But there is a Dark Side to this type of thinking if we are not careful.

The Dark Belief, sometimes completely Unconsciously Believed, goes like this...

"If my Team isn't Serving, then "I" am Failing to Serve Enough."

What makes this Bad?

It puts 100% of the Responsibility for Others' Actions on Yourself.

When Others do not Perform, you Blame Yourself.

When Others Fail, it's because You Didn't Sacrifice Enough.

That creates an Extremely Dangerous Savior Complex that is completely Unhealthy.

At the end of the day, no matter how Great of a Leader we may be, we can Never Force Others to Act.

Their Actions are their Own, Not Yours.

Though you may be able to "Sway" them in a Better Direction, or "Influence" them, you have to Accept that it is not your fault when others go a different Path.

Not to mention that Everyone Else you work with "Also" has their own Psychophysiology that is often working against them.

Especially in today's World!

There is also an Issue here where Servant Leaders can Stunt the Growth of their Teams by Serving Too Much.

A Classic Metaphor is that of the Butterfly Hatching from their Cocoon.

A Man sees a Butterfly Struggling to break free from their Cocoon.

In an act of Mercy and Empathy, the Man breaks the Cocoon wide open.

Picking up the Butterfly, the Man raises it into the air and says, "Fly, you are Free!"

But the Butterfly stays.

Their wings flap, but they do not take off into the air.

For you see, the Butterfly's wings become Strong "by" Breaking through the Cocoon.

Since the Butterfly did not do this, their wings became too weak to Fly.

Unintentionally, the Man has doomed the Butterfly to Perish.

A very similar thing happens with most Servant Leaders.

In Psychology, they call it Learned Helplessness.

By Over-Serving, the Leader's Team becomes too dependent on the Leader.

This can become a Vicious Cycle for the Leader where they don't see others Serving, they Blame Themselves for not Serving Enough, They Over-Serve, and the Team Learns Helplessness and does Not Serve.

This brings us to the Final Problem, Energy (Mg-ATP).

The act of Serving is Energy (Mg-ATP) Intensive.

When Leaders are constantly Serving, their Energy Levels tend to Deteriorate.

The Goal of Servant Leadership is to Serve, but there is no Focus on Recovery.

In the Pursuit to Serve More, they use up too much Energy (Mg-ATP).

When this happens long enough, it becomes Dis-Stress and causes Compassion Fatigue and then Burnout.

In Burnout, we Can Not be Effective Leaders.

Our ability to Think, our Emotional Intelligence, and even our IQ dramatically Decrease in Dis-Stress and Burnout.

On top of this, when we are in Dis-Stress as Leaders, we can literally pull others into Dis-Stress with us via Neurocardiology.

In pursuit of Serving, Servant Leaders often become Detrimental to their Teams because they fail to take Dis-Stress and Burnout into account.

These are the Reasons why Servant Leadership, for all of its well-intentioned components, often Fails.

Many of these Reasons are why I began to Develop a Different Type of Leadership that I called Legendary Leadership.

Exemplars Who Design Regenerative Legacies.

You have to Understand the Energy (Mg-ATP) Dynamics of Leadership, and you must Cultivate your Teams and Organization.

Serving does occur, but it has to be done within the bounds of the Energy and Cultivation aspects of Leadership.

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