Attitude #5: / am a community builder.

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Attitude #5: / am a community builder.

Attitude #5: / am a community builder.
Attitude #5: / am a community builder.

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Servant leaders recognize that their success derives from the attitude that they are leading an organizational effort to develop a productive community. They strive to build a community centered around members’ shared values and vision and through their collaborative decision-making and action- taking. Kouzes and Posner discuss this concept in terms of the leader-constituent relationship: “Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow. It’s the quality of this relationship that matters most when we are engaged in getting extraordinary things done. A leader- constituent relationship that’s characterized by fear and distrust will never, ever produce anything of lasting value. A relationship characterized by mutual respect and confidence will overcome the greatest adversities and leave a legacy of significance” (2007:24). Drucker points out that organizations are built on trust, and trust develops from effective relationships between executives and followers. “Taking responsibility for relationships is an absolute necessity. It is a duty” (2005:108).


To build community successfully, it is imperative to select the right people. For a servant leader it is vital to know who to retain or recruit, extricate, and develop. Collins explains that “Good to Great” leaders “… first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seats” (2001:13). Strong communities are built around people who share the values of the organization, are passionate about and motivated by the vision, and whose strengths match the organization’s execution needs (or who can be trained to develop such skills through additional organizational investment).

Drucker discusses the importance of looking for people’s strengths. Developing the attitude to ask “What can a man do?” instead of “What can he not do?” helps a leader to see strengths clearly and direct those strengths toward the common vision. “In every area of effectiveness within an organization, one feeds the opportunities and starves the problems. Nowhere is this more important than in respect to people. The effective executive looks upon people including himself as an opportunity … The task of an executive is not to change human beings. Rather, as the Bible tells us in the parable of the Talents, the task is to multiply performance capacity of the whole by putting to use whatever strength, whatever health, whatever aspiration there is in individuals” (Drucker, 2006:98-99).

Servant leaders’ stoke the fire of community through the common appeal of vision. “Leaders help people see that what they are doing is bigger than themselves, even, than the business. It’s something noble. It’s something that lifts their morale and motivational levels. When people go to bed at night they can sleep a little easier knowing that others are able to live a better life because of what they did that day” (Kouzes and Posner, 2007:135-136).

Organizational effectiveness depends on the strength of the community that the leader

Servant leaders “don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less”

builds by choosing the right people for the right job. This relationship is addressed by Maxwell’s Law of the Inner Circle: “The potential of the leader – along with the potential of the whole organization – is determined by those closest to him” (1998:112). Building a community within an organization creates a cohesive network that is able to achieve success in any situation. Maxwell explains that the leader must bring together people with five qualities when including them into the inner circle: 1) potential value – those who raise up themselves; 2) positive value – those who raise morale in the organization; 3) personal value – those who raise up the leader; 4) production value – those who raise others; and 5) proven value-those who raise up people who raise up other people (1998:115-116).

Additionally, community building is supported by hosting and/or addressing organizational gatherings and taking time to celebrate successes. Gatherings, of course, may include a variety of functions such as formal meetings, annual events, milestone achievements, holiday celebrations, and the like. “Community may not be the stuff of ordinary organizations, but it is the stuff of great ones, ones with strong cultures. The best leaders know that every gathering is a chance to renew commitrnent. They never let pass an opportunity to make sure that everyone knows why they’re all there and how they’re going to act in service of that purpose” (Kouzes and Posner, 2007:311). Through the inevitable daily encounter of problems and distractions servant leaders keep members focused on shared values and vision by affirming publicly what unifies the community.

As mentioned previously, servant leaders know part of their job is to “walk the shop.” They make themselves visible where work is

Five Necessary Attitudes of a Servant Leader 95

being done, where clients’ needs are being served. They pay attention to be sure they observe followers doing the right things and doing things right, and they compliment workers on their successes, encouraging their hearts through verbal recognition to keep working toward the vision. Also, servant leaders take care to recognize both individual contributions and team achievements through rewards, awards, gifts, and “thank-you’s” of many types. Presenting a plaque, naming an employee-of-the-month, or honoring a retiree are opportunities to tell the stories of workers’ successes and to reinforce the community’s shared values and vision (Kouzes and Posner, 2002).

Communities require building and tending. Servant leaders are aware of their vital role in bringing together the right people who are energized to achieve great things through shared values and vision. They know also that without a leader’s reinforcement, organizational values diffuse and visions blur. Therefore, servant leaders recognize the role of gatherings and celebrations in maintaining community.


The servant leadership style has received increasing attention in recent years and can be a powerful approach for leaders. However, to implement this style genuinely and effectively, leaders should be sure that they either possess or can readily adopt certain attitudes that meld with successful application of servant leadership. Chief among these attitudes are those discussed in this paper:

1) visioning isn’t everything, but it’s the beginning of everything;

2) listening is hard work requiring a major investment of personal time and effort – and it is worth every ounce of energy expended;

3) my job involves being a talent scout and committing to my staff’s success;

4) it is good to give away my power; and

5) I am a community builder.

As discussed by Autry (2001), one of the natural extensions of servant leadership is strong corporate social responsibility and community service, modeled by the leader and practiced by numerous organization members. Certainly, there is some truth to the opinion, espoused by many, that a business’s only responsibility is making a profit, and that the general community is well-served by the firm’s creation of jobs, payment of taxes, and so forth. However, as expressed by Marian Wright Edelman, “Service is the rent we pay for living.”

Business organizations are part of complex economic, social, educational, healthcare, and political systems from which firms derive benefits of great value. In this context, good corporate citizenship is practiced by the effective servant leader who includes community volunteerism and involvement in his/her life as well as encourages and accommodates employees’ community volunteer efforts. In doing so, the servant leader’s organization gains a reputation for being a valuable and appreciated member of the community – and also benefits in the long run from increased skills and networks developed through such volunteer efforts.

When applying the servant leadership style, practitioners should be cognizant that visioning, listening, and community building can be quite time-consuming activities. While payoffs in effectiveness can be substantial, successful application of servant leadership may require a substantial amount of time. The servant leadership approach, like many other leadership styles, requires not only technical competence and a variety of interpersonal skills but also a great deal of patience, perseverance, and dedication.