Servant Leadership and Moral Authority

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ANNOUNCEMENT: This is the last blog in the series of discussions regarding the book the Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership by James Sipe and Don Frick. Remember, I wrote about pillar six (Systems Thinking) first. So if you want a re-cap before you go on to the seventh and final pillar, click here.

“Moral authority requires sacrifice.”

~ Stephen Covey

A Servant-Leader is worthy of respect, inspires trust and confidence, and establishes quality standards for performance. Pillar number seven in James Sipe and Don Frick’s book, Seven Pillars of Servant Leadership is Moral Authority. Servant-Leaders who exemplify moral authority;

  • Values moral authority over positional authority
  • Empowers others with authority as well as responsibility
  • Sets clear and firm, yet flexible boundaries

Three core competencies of a Servant-Leader with moral authority;

  • Accepts and Delegates Responsibility
  • Shares Power and Control
  • Creates a Culture of Accountability

Moral authority is quite different from formal authority. The latter is a part of one’s official title or position. Moral authority, on the other hand, is not something that comes with the territory; indeed it earned. How is it earned? By following the other six pillars of servant leadership.

Your employees, your followers, your family and friends grant you moral authority when they see you consistently;

  • Act with character, humility, integrity, and a foundation of spirituality,
  • Put people first through caring and concern, mentoring and selfless service.
  • Communicate skillfully using empathy and an open heart as guideposts,
  • Collaborate compassionately, respect diversity, build and empower effective teams, and face conflict head-on,
  • Trust intuition and use foresight, nurture and value creativity, inspire and support an authentic vision, and,
  • Think holistically, always considering the greater good and moving strategically in complex and fluid environments and organizations.

Moral authority is more than that of the esteemed leader. It can mean survival or the demise of an organization. Parents understand this concept all too well. Parents know that telling children. “Do what I say, not what I do” does not work with kids. Children watch and mimic what their parents do and so child-rearing and leading cannot be done through ego but out of love …love of self and love of others.

Robert Greenleaf put it this way,

“A new moral principle is emerging which holds that the only authority deserving one our allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the leader. Those who choose to follow this principle will not casually accept the authority of existing institutions. Rather, they will freely respond only to individuals who are chosen leader because they are proven and trusted as servants. To the extent that this principle prevails in the future, the only truly viable institutions will be those that are predominantly servant led.”

Whew! Powerful stuff, right? As Max De Pree reminds us actions speak louder than words. As emerging Servant- Leaders moral authority is ultimately a by-product of acting as a Servant-Leader, not a goal in and of itself. At the end of the day, a servant-Leader’s moral authority is scored by others. And that’s exactly how it should be.

To Moral Authority,

Dr. Crystal

Crystal J Davis is a servant leader, blogger, and researcher. She holds a Doctorate in Management specializing in Organizational Leadership. Dr. Davis is passionately engaged in Servant Leadership and selfless service to the nonprofit and public sectors having served both large and small organizations throughout her career and her consulting business. Follow her @DrDavis2126 (Twitter), and Lead.From.Within. (Facebook)

© Copyright 2015 ~Dr. Crystal J. Davis. All Rights Reserved.

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