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The late Robert K. Greenleaf was widely revered for his profound impact on leadership theory during the last three decades of the 20th century. Eight of his most compelling essays on servant-leadership (a term he coined) are published here in book form for the first time. These essays testify to Greenleaf's legacy and to his important role in the philosophies of leadership and service. Issues of spirit, vision and wholeness are woven through many of these essays, which address individual and institutional leadership in all areas, including government, business, religion, education and philanthropy. We at getAbstract highly recommend this eloquent book to those contemplating or holding leadership positions.
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on November 22, 2005
I appreciated Greenleaf's writing style and the inspiration he offers. While reading most of the essays in this collection I felt like I was sitting down with my grandfather and we were having a conversation over coffee in his den about how to make the world a better place. In the essay "Old Age: The Ultimate Test of Spirit" he referred several times to letters he received from friends and readers about advice they would like and how he responded candidly to them. It made him seem approachable and believable; the style fit well with his content on how to be a servant and make society better. Even in his essays he's coaching younger people! Greenleaf does not write about what he thinks should be done or what might work, but he writes from a long life of experience and reminds us what truly has worked in the past for him and others. It's almost as if he is saying, "Come on, I know you can do it!" The essay "Have You a Dream Deferred?" is actually an address he gave to a group of first-year Ohio Fellows in which he calls the students to take the next three years of their lives at their college or university and use them to make their institution the best it can be, and in turn, they will grow in creativity, distinction, and wisdom, among other noble characteristics. As a recent college graduate I was truly inspired and wished I had heard that speech or read this essay my freshman year. His writings invoke you to action and that shows he truly cares about his work and his message.

I also appreciate Greenleaf's humility and humor. I caught myself laughing out loud many times because of stories and anecdotes he uses to illustrate his points. He keeps his writing as simple as possible, using the same phrasing to describe concepts he truly believes in such as servanthood and leadership. He never uses his expertise, or status, to give his points credibility but rather lets his message, what he believes in, and his many years of work, thought, and broad experience speak for itself.

The essays themselves would be stronger if they had more structure and organization around a succinct argument. In his writings, Greenleaf picks some broad topic, such as seminaries, to write whatever comes to mind. The only attempt at an organization of those thoughts is a subtitle with a word or thought below which he will write a few thoughts in paragraph form and then move on to another thought without attempt to really make connections between his ideas. There are many connections to be made, which are left to the reader, but it would be helpful to know the connections Greenleaf has found. This would not detract from his informal style that I appreciate, but only make it easier to understand his thoughts. Perhaps Spears edited the essays in this manner and gave them even more structure than they had before. In his introduction Spears could draw Greenleaf's unorganized points together; as it is now even in the introduction Spears only lists the main points he finds helpful in these essays without offering much connection between them.

Also, the essay "My Debt to E.B. White" did not fit with the other seven essays whatsoever. In this essay are Greenleaf's thoughts on certain writings by E.B. White that Greenleaf admired and includes long quotations from those texts. For those of us who never knew White, and especially those who rarely read The New Yorker, the essay's point is lost to us. It is much to specific and detailed and the wholeness that Greenleaf is indebted to White for helping him see in White's life is not discussed enough to make the essay so broad to relate easily and connect with the other essays in the collection. It is much better left entirely out of this book.

Overall I found my introduction to Robert Greenleaf, his life, his thoughts, and his style to be engaging, unique, wise, and inspiring. The book was enjoyable to read without dull intellectualizing and what quotes he did use were relevant and very personal to Greenleaf. His years of wisdom are captured in these essays and anyone interested in leadership and how we should organize ourselves to build a better society, especially young leaders full of potential and ripe for service, would do themselves a disservice if they overlook Greenleaf's work.
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As a Doctoral student writing on servant leadership, I found the newest book put out by The Greenleaf Center to be as interesting and thought-provoking as those published previously. If organizations are to be successful as we enter the 21st century, perhaps this book should become required reading at leadership seminars.
Greenleaf has a style all his own, but the material flows well and is readily understandable by the reader.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who leads in organizations.
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on January 3, 2014
Introductory Summary:

The editor of this book is Larry C. Spears who at the time of this writing is the CEO of the Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership since 1990. The foundation for this book is grounded in the person of Robert K. Greenleaf who is the father of Servant Leadership Theory. Back in 1970, he wrote a small essay called “The Servant As Leader”, which introduced the term “servant-leadership.” That and other writings have influenced an entire generation of management experts and institutional leaders. Bob Greenleaf (1904-1990) spent his first career in management research, development and education at AT&T. After retirement, he began a second career teaching and consulting at institutions ranging from Harvard Business School to the Ford Foundation to scores of churches and not-for-profit institutions. During the tumultuous 1960s, Greenleaf tried to understand why so many young people were in rebellion against America’s institutions, especially universities. He concluded that the fault lay with the institutions: they weren’t doing a good job of serving; therefore, they were doing a poor job of leading.

In 1970, Greenleaf wrote “The Servant as Leader”, a powerful little essay that continues to gain influence today. In it, Greenleaf described some of the characteristics and activities of servant-leaders, providing examples which show that individual efforts, inspired by vision and a servant ethic, can make a substantial difference in the quality of society. Greenleaf said true leaders are chosen by their followers. He discussed the skills necessary to be a servant-leader; the importance of awareness, foresight and listening; and the contrasts between coercive, manipulative, and persuasive power.

This book is a collection of eight essays by Robert Greenleaf, most of which were originally published as separate pamphlets by The Greenleaf Center.[1] The editor makes it clear that as an aid to the reader, the eight essays in this volume are as follows:

“Servant: Retrospect and Prospect”
Greenleaf presents the need in this reflection of how fresh vision is needed that

liberates people with in a variety of institutions and organizations from rigid mind-sets.

“Education and Maturity”
Personal identity and personal significance is developed over the journey of a life time as one grows in understanding of maturity.

“The Leadership Crisis”
The source of the crisis in Greenfield’s reflection is the definition and limitation of three types of power. Vision is the necessary sail that gives guidance to the effective use of power in the life of an institution or organization.

“Have you a Dream Deferred”
This reflection focuses on the understanding of leadership to place the responsibility for personal growth of people within an institution and organization back onto the people they lead.

“The Servant as Religious Leader”
From the perspective of the organization it is not simply tasks that must get done but in the midst of tasks recognizing the phenomenon of “spirit” we must get people done by leaders holding their own against the forces of destruction and indifference.

“Seminary as Servant”
Greenleaf presents how seminaries can have the courage to present a vision by which they focus on serving society.

“My Debt to E.B. White”
The essay presents how E.B. White’s writings impacted Greenleaf’s thinking over fifty-five years. Two of White’s gifts: “seeing things whole” and “the gift of language to express what he saw – were foundational to his power as a writer.

“Old Age: The Ultimate Test of the Spirit”
In this essay Greenleaf begins to unpack the wisdom that he has developed over a lifetime of experience and reflection. This is a wonderful chapter for anyone who is preparing to transition into midlife.

Points of Discovery and Reflection

This reader has discovered after reading numerous articles and essays written by Greenleaf one must take time to reflect on three questions that will allow the reader to process Greenleaf’s transformative leadership theory. These questions are: How does one understand the need for people to be integrated in their approach to life and work? In essence productivity is the outcome of one’s way of being.[2] In a New York Times article Greenleaf states, “Servant leadership deals with the reality of power in everyday life – its legitimacy, the ethical restraints upon it and the beneficial results that can be attained through the appropriate use of power.”[3] It is refreshing that Greenleaf does not approach the concept of power as being inherently evil which has been made common by some cultural definitions in the flow of the American mindset. For Greenleaf, it is the proper stewardship of power by both leaders and the people that they lead that create a context for the development of healthy maturity and wholeness in their lives that makes a positive impact in society. The second question one must reflect upon relates to “how one views their own sense of personal identity?” If transformation is to occur in the lives that one leads it must be happening in the life of the leader. All ten of the foundational characteristics of servant-leadership theory are grounded on the bedrock of this core truth. Ridged mind-sets in organizations find cannot be hurdled by a leader who is not aware of their own capacity for a ridged mind-set. Thus, this leader will not have the courage to present a vision that is persuades people consider a different path to an issue. The third question that one must reflect upon is, “How does one view other people?” In each one of these essays you as a reader will be constantly challenged to be more committed to the growth and success of those you serve as a leader rather than your own success.

Thoughts for the Journey

One of the criticisms that leadership scholars have levied at servant-leadership theory is that there is not enough empirical research that support the productivity of an organization implementing this approach to leadership. In the past ten years that has changed and what is occurring is that there is some cross-over with this theory along with family systems theory that is making some deep impact into the productivity in industry as well as in the context of globalization. In reading this book I would recommend that you journal your thoughts around the three questions that were presented in the previous section of this summary. This is a great read and this reader highly recommends that you take the time to glean from Robert K. Greenleaf in order to equip you with a different vision for yourself and others on your journey.

[1] The Power of Servant Leadership, (San Francisco, CA: Berrett Koeler, 1998). p 20.

[2] Ibid, p 5.

[3] Ibid, p 5. (Referring to New York Times (October 2, 1990)


The Power of Servant Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Berrett Koeler, 1998.

Paperback, 313 pages
Published January 1st 1998 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers
original title
The Power of Servant Leadership
1576750353 (ISBN13: 9781576750353)
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on April 25, 2011
This book is a collection of eight essays by Robert Greenleaf, which were all initially published separately after his seminal book, Servant Leadership. As such it is sometimes hard to find the thread of servant leadership in each of these essays, and some of them are very dense. The essay entitled, "The Leadership Crisis," however, is particularly pertinent to the themes of servant leadership. In it Greenleaf points to the lack of a unifying idea as the basis for the current leadership crisis and outlines three forms of power leaders can exert: coercive, manipulative, and persuasive.

To be honest, I had a hard time getting through this book, possibly for two reasons. First, I was listening to this as an audio download, and I found it hard to follow. The other reason is that I had very different expectations of this book. It seemed to me that these essays really documented Robert Greenleaf's spiritual journey in his later years rather than expanding on his thesis about servant leadership.
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on May 15, 2013
This book is timeless and very appropriate for today's organization's servant leaders. Practical, step by step tips on practicing and evolving as a servant leader. Easy read, easy to follow. Makes sense!
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on June 8, 2010
What can I say, Greenleaf is the father of Servant leadership. His wisdom at identifying this important leadership style was ahead of his time. In the culture where business leadership was cut cost and increase profits he stepped forward and said that more efficient companies can have leadership that is more geared towards helping employees rather than herding them.
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on June 1, 2011
The book which tittle : The Power of Servant Leadership is the book that descript the Value of Leadership.
And the book that can guide the leader for do the best todo.
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on June 12, 2010
Thank you so much for the great service and the excellent condition of the product. I would definitely order from you again. Rhonda
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on February 20, 2013
This is a wonderful and uplifting book. It is an alternative to other leadership styles. I love everything by this author.
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