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Post Webinar Q&A with Fons Trompenaars, Implementing Servant Leadership For Better Business Results

June 27, 2011


Fons Trompenaars is an author and consultant in the field of cross-cultural communication. He will be a faculty member at Linkage’s Global Institute for Leadership Development (GILD) this October in Palm Desert, California.

Fons recently presented a webinar Implementing Servant Leadership For Better Business Results in partnership with Linkage. Here are his responses to a few questions that he didn’t have time to address in the live session:

What is the primary difference between transformational leadership and servant leadership?
There is an article in Emerald, 2003 called Transformational versus servant leadership: a difference in leader focus by A. Gregory Stone, Robert F. Russell and Kathleen Patterson that argues that the primary difference between transformational leadership and servant leadership is the focus of the leader. The transformational leader’s focus is directed toward the organization, and his or her behavior builds follower commitment toward organizational objectives, while the servant leader’s focus is on the followers, and the achievement of organizational objectives is a subordinate outcome. The extent to which the leader is able to shift the primary focus of leadership from the organization to the follower is the distinguishing factor in classifying leaders as either transformational or servant leaders. This article also looks at the next stage of developmental issues in servant leadership, such as the challenges facing empirical investigation and measurement, and the changes that are occurring in current thinking about the servant leadership approach. Ultimately, the case is made that although different, both transformational leadership and servant leadership offer the conceptual framework for dynamic leadership.

What are some common practices to measuring the effectiveness of servant leadership?
There is not a lot available to my knowledge. There are some organizations that have related their reward systems to the appraisal of some main behaviors of servant leadership with relatively good success. There is very little academic work on this issue and I would stimulate more research in this area because this is a prerequisite to make servant leadership a success.

What are key personality traits that servant leaders exhibit?
First of all, most competencies that are mentioned in the literature about effective leadership are true for servant leaders with one additional requirement namely that they integrate it with its opposite. So if Courage is a characteristic the servant leader integrates it with Caution, Vision with Execution, Rules with Exceptions, Serving and Leading etc. That makes it a more complete type of leadership.

Can you train a leader to become a servant leader or are these innate qualities?
It is a bit like top sport. Having talent is a prerequisite to go to the top but you need lots of training. Next to training I believe strongly in setting up a corporate culture around the leaders that support their success and training is one of those contextual factors.

What tips can you offer for ‘selling’ the value of servant leadership internally to senior leaders?
Servant leadership is a more inclusive and sophisticated concept of leadership that works particularly well in multi-cultural organizations since it integrates opposites.

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