Philosophies of Servant Leadership’s From an Islamic Viewpoint

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A worldwide leadership style is servant leadership. It does not matter if an individual resides in South Africa, the Middle-East, China, or the USA, several have incorporated the servant leadership style within their culture. Many may think servant leadership is not as prevalent today; yet, one is able to detect features of it within various major businesses, cultures, and religions currently. Three of the primary religions across the world include Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, and all of these promote servant-hood among their constituents for the advancement of civilization as well as oneself. Whether an individual is religious or not, serving others uplifts those around above oneself, and through this the leader is able to empower others. Leaders empower others through the ability to think past themselves, thinking of others and the organization, which eventually makes a larger impact as everyone unite together to serve people and the organization with a powerful purpose. This is how an organization begins to impact the world. This leadership approach has been studied and developed by several people, it all began with Robert Greenleaf. Greenleaf discusses in depth about servant leadership and how the servant leader is a servant first, which equated to a leader first. Every nation and every culture have leaders, could the same be possibly true about servant leaders? This style of leadership seems difficult to follow, but is it worth the reward? The following essay will probe into servant leadership, the servant-first likened to the leader first attitude, the global and religious perspective, and hopefully add perspective to the question, Why Servant Leadership?

Servant Leadership not only associates with Christianity, it associates with other cultures and religions as well. It is important to be able to identify points that display the characteristics of different religion and culture and the method utilized to relate to Servant Leadership. The idea of a servant leader was formally introduced by R.K. Greenleaf. He provided the distinguishes between two kinds of leadership models: the leader-first model and the servant-first model. Greenleaf proclaims that the contrast amongst the two types of leader’s demonstrations itself through the process of the quantity of care taken by the servant-first to ensure that other people’s highest priority needs are being obliged. Greenleaf indicates that the best 16 tests to reveal servant-leadership is to make an inquiry to whether those being served mature as individuals while being served. Some key characteristics of servant leadership include: targeting service ahead of self-interest, listening first, encouraging trust by initially being trust worthy, concentrating on what is achievable to accomplish, and helping. A servant leader is a leader who focuses not only on task accomplishment but also on the long-range social consequences of the task. In servant leadership there is a concern for the long-term human and environmental welfare. Servant leadership stresses the ethical behavior of the leader and the followers.

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Gandhi’s’ cultural relevance has a strong servant leadership characteristic. He powerfully dedicated his life to that of servitude. Gandhi lived by the procedure of servant leadership and placed more value on individual needs and personal convictions as opposed to building his reputation and world standing. His actions throughout his life spoke more volume pertaining to his character than his voice could have. Gandhi stated this in an Indian Village, “The world is weary of hate. We see the fatigue overcoming the Western nations. We see that this song of hate has not benefited humanity. Let it be the privilege of India to turn a new leaf and set a lesson to the world” (Desai., 2004). Proof that nonviolence played an important role in providing an essential platform for implementation of interactions with the people in Great Britain and India. His activities steered to acquire freedom for India from Great Britain. The Vaishnavis religion, which is a form of Hinduism also believed in nonviolence. Nelson Mandela was another example of servant leadership wherein he had a strong stance against apartheid and racial discrimination. A trait of voluntary subordination was shown though his actions of servant leadership.

Islam is the second largest religion in the world. Approximately 1.6 billion Muslims live around the world, on every continent, this happens to be 23% of the global population (Experts, 2017). Indonesia has the largest Muslim population (Experts, 2017). Their sacred book is entitled the Quran, upon which they center their belief system. Quran 29:69 says, “And as for those who strive in Our path — We will surely guide them in Our ways. And Indeed, Allah is with those who are of service to others.” Also, many academics have led studies on the connection between Islam and servant leadership. There is a link between servant leadership and the pattern of their prophet’s leadership. The findings indicate that the Prophet’s pattern of leadership parallels servant-leadership characteristics. All the essential facets of servant leadership are well included and taught by Islam. Leadership in Islam focuses on doing good for others, for the sake of Allah. To them it is an honor to guide and escort their fellow Muslims and humankind. With this responsibility they endeavor to “guide, protect and treat their followers justly” (A.M. Mahazan, 2015).

Islam indorsed the concept of a servant leader. This concept has been highlighted by the prophetic tradition “the leader of a people is their servant”. Other prophetic traditions highlight the importance of the devotion and honesty of the leaders in serving their followers. It is interesting to note the aspects of Islamic leadership which deal with long term social and environmental impact. One of the fundamental criteria in decision making is the impact of the pronouncements on the collective benefit of the society. Laws and regulations are deemed acceptable or not based on their influence on the collective benefit to the society. As early as the seventh century Muslims treasured the need to conserve and preserve the environment. The Prophet commanded Muslims to conserve water resources. He also prohibited cutting trees except when necessary, and hunting animal except for food.

Cultivating trees and plants is deemed a good deed to be rewarded. Examining the life of the Prophet shows that he fulfilled the key aspects of servant leadership as outlined by Greenleaf. He was nicknamed the trustworthy by his fellow citizen; he provided help to those who sought his help especially those who were weak, old, and helpless; and he placed service before self-interest. The Prophet went on a trip with a group of Muslims. They decided to cook a lamb for dinner. Three men from among the group volunteered to prepare the dinner, one volunteered to cut the sheep, the second volunteered to skin it, the third volunteered to cook it, and the Prophet volunteered to collect the wood and start the fire. There are numerous examples of how the Prophet acted as a model of the servant-leader (Murad, 2017). Metaphors of the interaction between the Prophet and his companions show that the criteria of Greenleaf’s test have been met by the Prophet and many of his companions. One of the paradigms of modern servant leadership is the concept that the leader should be a role model for the followers. This has certainly been the case for the Prophet and the early Muslim leaders. The Quran commands the believers to take the prophet as their role model. The Quran emphasizes that the Messenger of God has the best of manners. The concept of servant leadership in Islam is enhanced by the principle that leaders should not, normally, seek appointment to an office but they are usually nominated by others. These nominations are, usually, based on the track record of the person. This provides a way to differentiate between candidates who want to be “servant first” and those who want to be “leader-first”. “Servant leaders think ‘you’ not ‘me’ (Prichard, 2013).

Servant leadership is more prevalent than one might think. Servant hood and concepts throughout servant leadership have been identified in at least one major worldview in every continent. People want to be served, they want to know that others care about them, they want to serve in assorted venues, and they want to make a difference. Some leaders want their followers to think servant leadership is counter-cultural and uncommon, which creates an environment where it is not expected. Global leaders should take the above conclusions into account, in the sense that most worldviews have a high moral belief in line with the role of the servant. One may encounter in one’s workplace, learning how to serve those around one will be essential to becoming not only a servant leader, but a global leader. Leaders within global environments must learn that one’s own perspective and responsibilities should not be higher as or more valued than others.

As leaders come alongside those within their organization they can be united in serving each other, the organization, and the mission in which they will be coming together to accomplish. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. To lose oneself in the service of others may be more difficult than one may think; however, having a great vision to strive toward creates an environment where there is purpose behind every service. Putting the needs of others over oneself is not natural, and hence the reasoning many attribute servant leaderships as countercultural, yet it is time to look to the many instead of the few. It is time to strengthen the whole and lower the individual, to create organizations and teams that are developing one another, and in the end resulting in everyone’s growth. Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. One does not have to have hold a college degree to serve. You do not have to produce perfect subject and verb agreement to serve. One does not have to be knowledgeable about Plato and Aristotle to serve…The only requirements needed is a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love, and you can be that servant. The goal is people, the goal is to serve; the goal is to make a difference by allowing others to be propelled by today’s leader.

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Philosophies of Servant Leadership’s From an Islamic Viewpoint. (2021, Dec 16). Retrieved from

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