Book Recommendation : Servant Leadership by Robert K Greenleaf

A Challenging Read

If you are looking for a leadership book with a different approach from the usual leadership book, and one that is intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking, then you should definitely read this book of collected talks, essays, and articles from Robert K. Greenleaf.

Armed with varied and extensive civilian leadership experience, Greenleaf boldly took me on “a journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness.” This journey challenged me early on when Greenleaf stated that the traditional hierarchical leadership used in most organizations, one person in charge as the lone chief atop a pyramidal structure, is the likely cause of most of our leadership problems. Greenleaf favored another, less frequently used tradition where the principle leader is “primus inter pares” – first among equals.

Throughout the book, Greenleaf made a compelling case that “primus inter pares” exists in important places with conspicuous success. With my leadership experience rooted in the traditional military hierarchical structure, at times it was difficult to understand Greenleaf’s perspectives on the first or second read.

Greenleaf’s insights into the servant as leader (one who makes sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served) in the first chapter lays the foundation for his subsequent chapters: the institution as servant, trustees as servants, servant leadership in business, servant leadership in education, servant leadership in foundations, servant leadership in churches, servant leaders, servant responsibility in a bureaucratic society, and America and world leadership.

With all the recent attention focused on moral and ethical breakdowns within some large and powerful institutions (Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, the Catholic Church, etc.), this book’s continued relevance is obvious. Overcoming my challenges in reading this book was definitely worth the effort.

– Matthew Dodd

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