BUSINESS & LIFE: Servant and Authentic Leadership

Happy and Blessed Pentecost!  May the fire of the Holy Spirit embolden you with renewed zeal to do the Lord’s will and fulfil God’s purpose in your lives.  I also congratulate Mrs Joan Shillingford and the Musical Melee Team for another outstanding performance.  The surprise performance by Tarina was “Simply the Best!”  Oh what a performance and gift!

Dr. Valda Henry
Dr. Valda Henry

This week, we are going to focus on “Servant and Authentic Leadership.”  I have written before on leadership, exploring the tenets of Peter Drucker’s characteristics of effective leadership.  This week, we will be looking at leadership from the servant and authentic leadership perspective.  It is fitting given that on Pentecost, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit the disciples began their true ministry.  We will also remember that Jesus’ example to his disciples at the Last Supper when he washed their feet and told them that this was to send the message that they are to serve rather than being served.  This is important for Jesus did not just tell them; he led by example, and this truly sums up Servant Leadership.

So we see the concept of servant leadership has been with us for a very long time.  Over time however we moved away from that model thinking it was too soft, too touchy-feely and giving up of power.   Robert Greenleaf is often credited as person who advocated returning to the concept and Jim Autry may be credited with popularising the concept.

Servant leadership is leadership in service of others.  It is not only about what we do but who we are.  It is about being authentic; being real, being true to us.  It is about honesty and vulnerability.  It also means being people of our word, so that our word becomes our bond.   Servant leadership is about consistency.  It is about being the same person irrespective of where we are or when.  There ought not be a “Sunday self, Monday Self or Tuesday Self.  A morning self, afternoon or evening self.”

Autry postulates five ways of “being” that leads one to servant and authentic leadership.  They are:

  1. Be Authentic –this means being true to self.  It is about talking the talk, walking the talk and walking the walk.  It is about being genuine, meaning what we say and saying only what we mean.  It is about accepting who we are and not pretending to be someone else or not who we are.  This is not always easy for some of us do not know who we are.  It is a journey of self-discovery and some of us are still trying to find out who we are; what we believe deeply, what we stand for.  It is easy for others to recognise when fakes and disingenuous people.  Being authentic is critical in building trust and this is a key, if not the most important component in building relationships.   Authenticity is about integrity, about honesty and truthfulness.  It is also about encouraging others to be true to themselves
  2. Be Vulnerable – this means letting others know what we are feeling.  It is part of being authentic as it speaks to being authentic in our feelings to your work, employees, ideas and others.  It is being able to admit your mistakes and to apologise.  This is difficult for some.  Some of us believe that admitting our mistakes and saying sorry are signs of weakness.  As Autry says, “Being vulnerable takes a great deal of courage because it means letting go of the old notions of control, forgetting forever the illusion that you can be in control. Vulnerability allows one to be empathetic, to understand and see the world from another’s standpoint.”
  3. Be Accepting –Acceptance is, according to Autry, more important than approval.  Acceptance does not necessarily signify that we agree; it signifies that we recognise the right of others to hold a different view.  We respect their position and concentrate on the issues and not the person.  Acceptance means we do not see situations in terms of winning and losing, as we recognise that every person’s viewpoint is valid.  Authentic people, argues Autry, accept others without judgement just as they want to be accepted without judgement or disapproval.
  4. Be Present – this speaks to being present not only in body, but very importantly in mind and spirit.  Autry posits, “Being present is not just being here and there, but having your whole self available at all times – available to yourself as you try to bring all your values to bear on the work on hand, and available to others as you respond to their problems, issues and challenges.”
  5. Be useful – this means being a resource and providing the resources needed by others.  It means facilitating the work of others, providing guidance and helping others.

I recently listened to an interview with John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market and servant leadership is akin to his concept, “Conscious Capitalism.”  Conscious Capitalism, he explains, is understanding the purpose of business beyond just making money.  It is understanding the higher purpose of the business and engaging business in a more conscious way.  It is he, claims, “to provide leadership that is done more consciously, to help people be fulfilled in the workplace.  Business can be a powerful force of good.”  Customers [and employees] know when a company [leader] is authentic.  When we feel somebody genuinely cares about us, we trust him or her; and if we trust him or her, we want to trade [work] with him or her.

Servant and authentic leadership is about love; love of the business, love of the customers, love of key stakeholders and love of the people as John Mackey says, “Love connects organisations.”

I can be contacted at or Tel: 767 449 9649.

Until we meet again, may the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

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    June 11, 2014

    A very interesting and timely piece considering the failure of political leadership in Dominica at present. Fortunately, the winds of change are fanning the fire of the Holy Spirit in Dominica. Our people are gradually embracing change and are emboldened with a renewed zeal to do the Lord’s will and fulfill God’s purpose in their lives and in the country as a whole. Change is indeed a must.

  2. immigranidad
    June 10, 2014

    very interesting way of seeing leadership…but unfortunately 99,99% of world and business leaders are cynical bastards not giving s### about anything except profit numbers or their specific business or political goals. Its called realpolitik…

  3. Yvonne
    June 10, 2014

    Just want to commend Valda for an excellent and timely article that I wish would be the subject of a public discussion or radio dialogue so that many more than just those of us who choose to read can benefit from this knowledge. Thank you and God bless.

  4. me
    June 10, 2014

    Another excellent piece. Sounds like the principle of postmodern leadership advanced by a progressive I read some time ago. It is appropriate that you have explored that Servant as leader concept at Pentecost. Jesus Christ was that postmodern Servant Leader who you are advocating that we as leaders everywhere -Home, Church, Politics, Work, etc,- should follow. Good thought and keep on writing. Blessed Pentecost season to you now!

  5. Jaime Lewis
    June 9, 2014

    An excellent piece. I’d like to add that it is so important that individuals who ascribe to this form of leadership should ensure that they create balance in their lives, otherwise they will suffer from burnout. We can only give what we have, and if we are running on empty, we will have nothing to give to the company and to our followers.

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