Servant Leadership

Since at least Jim Collins’s Good to Great, the world of management – and educational administration – has been intrigued by the notion of humble leadership. I’ve written before about it here, and it captivates my thinking to this day.

Some researchers, J. Andrew Morris, Céleste M. Brotheridge and John C. Urbanski, developed the line of thinking in “Bringing humility to leadership: Antecedents and consequences of leader humility.” (Human Relations 2005 58: 1323.)

The paper is a truly interesting read. While the researchers don’t develop a suitable measurement tool, nor take the further step of validating the concept through empirical data, they do provide “a clear conceptualization of humility”, “ (offer) several potential predictors of humility and indicated the specific ways in which humility may impact the leadership process.”

Their propositions:
1) Higher levels of narcissism predict lower levels of humility.
2) Machiavellianism predicts lower levels of humility.
3) Low self-esteem predicts lower levels of humility.
4) Defensively high self-esteem predicts lower levels of humility.
5) Higher levels of emotional awareness and management predict higher levels of humility.
6) Leader humility predicts supportiveness toward others.
7) Leader humility predicts a socialized power motivation.
8) Leader humility predicts participative leadership.

And their conclusion:
“… individuals whose personal traits include narcissism, Machiavellianism, low self-esteem, or defensively high self-esteem are likely to have low levels of self-awareness, openness, and transcendence, the dimensions of humility; and that the latter characteristics are more likely to be found in individuals with high levels of emotional awareness and control, components of emotional intelligence. Humility, in turn, is expected to generate servant leader-type behaviors such as engaging in supportive relationships, presenting a socialized power motivation, and leading through participation.”

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