The Challenge of Servant Leadership
Margaret John Kelly, DC (Vincentian Center for Church and Society) wrote on June 27, 2011:
Having served in leadership in the management of Catholic institutions (educational and health care) and in governance of many Catholic organizations over several decades, I have always spoken of (and tried to live with varying degrees of success) the servant-leadership approach as integral to our Gospel mission and Catholic identity. That type of leadership at the top seems to me to be a distinguishing characteristic of Christian faith-based organizations. Even though the goal is never fully achieved, the effort has the potential to advance organizational climate and even productivity.
On the down side, to profess a commitment to servant leadership carries a very serious challenge, but so does Gospel-living which fortunately provides for forgiveness and redemption. It also seems that in our current environment, the language of “servant” is not easy for some to internalize as a value. For some it may connote too much mildness if not weakness, and for others it may demand too much detachment and imagination. It also requires as well a generous share of prudence and patience, not the most easily acquired or practiced virtues in this fast-paced world..
But still, because of the universality of the Gospel message, I think the servant leader approach provides for adaptation to particular needs or provides the repertoire advantage you mentioned in your critique of my chapter on “Leadership” in the Concise Guide to Catholic Church Management. Indeed in our interactions, we need to individualize according to the needs of others.