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Servant Leadership in Non-Christian Religions

Reyte On Publishing
A review of the complete personal model of servant leadership will be discussed. As well as an
explanation of how a set of values of choice influences how the model operates. Using measures
to evaluate on four levels; individual, interpersonal, organizational, and societal. The measures
can help define how the model communicates a sense of meaning and purpose. Similarly this
was presented in the paper discussing how Servant Leadership clearly transcends other cultures
and religions, and not only Christianity. In this discussion, there are four key points that will
illustrate how people in history displayed servant leader characteristics in religion and culture.
On an individual level my life has been changed since serving in my church for example helping
to distribute food and clothing to those in need. In addition, as a result of living this practice over
the years my life has been altered. Character has been developed for compassion and have a
heart for the poor putting others needs ahead of my own. This voluntarily subordination is the
first example of leadership.
The attribute of voluntary subordination which Gandhi displays through his service to humanity.
This displays the individual characteristic measurement of leadership that appears to have
transformed Gandhis life. Leaders in general tend to identify with symbols of power to give
themselves an authoritative stance. Gandhi however lived a life of servitude toward others and
put this ahead of his personal reputation and even his needs. His personal convictions of nonviolence were instrumental in providing a platform that was implemented in his interactions with

others. His religion of Vaishnavism believed in nonviolence with all within our world and the
universal (Nanda, n.d). He voluntarily took a step forward in proactively reaching out to Indian
cultures in South Africa where he taught the English language to many students without being
compensated. Thereby aiding the poor by educating them into mainstream culture to pursue
opportunities previously held to the privileged races who could get employment due to being
able to read, write, and communicate effectively in society. Gandhi also spoke out to improve
living conditions for those discriminated against because of race or social position within the
community (Nanda, n.d). In another instance Gandhi much like the Good Samaritan in the Bible,
was willing to come to the aid and support of lepers that came to his doorstep. He gave them
food, tended to their physical injury and then provided transport to the hospital (Nanda, n.d). The
willingness to step up to the plate personally and come to the aid of others instead of delegating
shows by way of his beliefs, the desire to enter into the environment of the common community
and lend a hand.
Gandhi worked in the hospitals nursing (Nanda, n.d) others during the time of the Black Plague
(pneumonia) that killed thousands in South Africa. He served for hours not caring for his
personal safety but served to make the suffering of others more bearable.
Another well known servant leader was Nelson Mandela (Mandela, 1994). I am your servant. I
do not come to you as a leader, as one above others, is a common phrase of his.
He spoke those words before being jailed for 27 years as a political prisoner voluntarily refusing
to denounce his position and stance to end Apartheid and racial inequalities and injustices in
South Africa. He clearly demonstrates the trait of voluntary subordination in the midst of
inhumane treatment from his jailers and the policing authorities (Taggart, 2009).

Another attribute of servant leadership is authentic self. This quality is shown by openly
displaying vulnerability, integrity, security, accountability, and humility. Gandhi has operated
authentically in his consistent and deliberate acts of humanity to others in peril.
During the Zulu Rebellion, many Zulu African peoples were injured. Though Gandhi had a
family to care for, he came to the aid of those that faced certain death due to serious injuries.
Gandhi nursed many back to health requesting of the Governor to form an Ambulance Corps to
transport the injured to the hospital from the conflict. Gandhi served as a nurse, driver, and
caretaker of those hospitalized while inspiring others to do the same (Nanda, n.d).
By inspiring a nation of people to care for one another Gandhi exemplified servant leadership.
In more modern times people like CEO, Herb Kelleher, and Colleen Barrett, President of
Southwest Airlines showed servant leadership by treating others with respect, care, and sincerity.
From the top down Southwest has an organizational culture that is motivated to give the best of
service to others at all times. Even when this may impede profitability over the short term. The
philosophy at Southwest is to treat your People right and good things will happen (McGee
Cooper, 2013). For instance at Southwest the top leaders receive salaries that are less than
current industry market rates. The main concern of leaders at Southwest is to provide the best
service at an affordable cost to customers. This shows voluntary subordination in action where it
counts. The culture of leadership at Southwest is that profit is not the highest priority. Providing
their people and ultimately the customer with the best service trumps profit. Management at the
top is willing to receive lower salaries, in this way more training and opportunities for the best
tools and resources are provided for the employees. Lower salaries mean the operating costs are
kept at a level that allows lower air fares. Perks such as no cost for baggage allowed Southwest
to extend the best fares and compete with the industries best airlines.

A third characteristic of servant leadership is ability to Build Community. The organizational

culture at Southwest is also known for coming to the aid of communities in times of disaster. The
leadership at the top has instilled servant leadership philosophy throughout the organization. Best
exemplified when the airlines company workers took their personal time to reach out to help
tornado victims in Oklahoma. The employees came out by the hundreds to help rebuild the
stricken community (McGee Cooper, 2013). In the work culture for myself I have been
transformed in the area of considering everyones feedback just as important as mine and always
having an ear to learn from them and listen to what concerns they have at the time with the hope
of using it to make the work culture encouraging and better to all. This can also tie in to societal
change as we as servant leaders inspire others to want to become servant leaders and have
change affect others in society. Who knows how many that are affected will go on and change or
inspire and influence others who may change culture and society. (Dierendonck, 2010, 23) This
can occur in the work culture where you can influence and make a difference with co-workers or
employees. Influencing others in the workplace can be adopted just by showing concern for their
wellbeing and success.
Nelson Mandela organized the men and women of his community, many neighboring villages,
and eventually his nation. Changing a societal culture of racially motivated hatred into an
African anti-apartheid revolution. A lawyer, he became a chief executive able to organize people
in pulling together support for anti-apartheid from many other countries. As a political activist he
served South African and after his release from prison became President (Mandela, 1994).
The fourth characteristic of servant leadership to discuss is a willingness to develop others. At
Southwest there are not silos of specialty but teams cross train in order to support one another
should a team member have an emergency or is absent for a time. Leadership at Southwest

expects its employees to understand a number of roles related to their area of expertise. They are
challenged to own the processes they perform on a daily basis, contribute to creating the best
solutions and sharing best practices. In this way the leadership is not the one in charge of the
success of the company, but the employees have the pride of coaching and leading projects with
the full support of management. For example performance reviews are open for both parties to
ask questions and provide feedback without any fear or backlash. By challenging others with
high expectations, and a strong support system to give the tools and resources necessary to
succeed, Southwest has developed their people to some of the top performers in the industry
(McGee Cooper, 2013).
The Dalai Lama as a Buddhist from Tibet and leader of his people has been using his influence to
communicate his non-violent stance to achieve unity of all peoples. He uses his position to foster
the development of higher thinking by writing and communicating on many of societys ills from
a worldwide perspective. For example he has written many articles about introducing to the
global community universal humanitarian approach to world problems as the only sound basis
for world peace (Dalai Lama, n.d.). He speaks on that all people desire happiness and do not
want to experience suffering. He points out that it is not wise for one to gain happiness by taking
advantage of, degrading or persecuting another. His universal religious perspective has Buddhist
undertones of achieving a better world through self-actualization and considering others when
seeking personal happiness.
The attributes of servant leadership discussed were voluntary subordination, authentic self, build
community, and developing others. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Southwest Airlines, and lastly the
Dalai Lama all were servant leaders that were instrumental in putting a cause or societal goal
ahead of their personal safety, security, well-being, or gain. Servant leaders such as these change

societal norms and ultimately how people think, they can change companies, political climates,
and racial injustices.


A Human Approach to World Peace. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2015.

Dierendonck, D. (2010). Servant Leadership and Robert K Greenleaf legacy. In Servant
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Nanda, R. (n.d.). Retrieved July 6, 2015. Mohandas Karamchand. In Encyclopdia Britannica.
McGee Cooper, A. (2013). The Essentials of Servant Leadership Principles in Practice, 18-22.
Mogotsi, I. (n.d.). A Real Authentic Hero, Not a Superstar. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
Taggart, J. (2009). Authentic Leadership: A Personal Philosophy.