Transformational leadership may be positioned as a strategic advantage in the area of innovation. However, it is not the only leadership style that may provide a strategic advantage to organizational leaders. Because leadership involves influence and is concerned with how the leader affects followers (Northouse, 2012), it would stand to reason that servant leadership is also a powerful leadership style for fostering an innovative organizational culture.
For instance, one of the key characteristics of servant leadership provided by Spears (2002) is conceptualization. This refers to an individual’s ability operate as a visionary with a clear sense of goals and directions (Spears, 2002). Servant leaders are equipped through conceptualization to be creative and approach challenges in innovative ways (Northouse, 2012).
Another characteristic of servant leadership given by Spears (2002) is persuasion. Persuasion is the “clear and persistent communication that convinces others to change” (Spears, 2002). This is in contrast to coercion, which is used by some other leadership styles by using positional authority to force compliance; servant leadership uses persuasion which fosters an environment where innovation is possible by using a conversational approach that allows all parties to be an active part of the discovery and decision-making process (Northouse, 2012).
As a Christian leader, servant leadership is reflective of Christ himself. His encouragement to create change was not through force or coercion, but through persuasion and helping his disciples conceptualize the future he was seeking to create. Jesus uses persuasion to help Peter overcome his denial of Jesus and be a fully committed follower (Jn. 1:21-25), while at the same time speaking of the Kingdom and Heaven and painting a picture of the future (Jn. 14:1-3). Jesus’ model of servant leadership reveals his constant actions of change and innovation (Oster, 2011).
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Oster, G. W. (2011). The light prize: perspectives on Christian innovation. Virginia Beach, Va.: Positive Signs Media.
Spears, L. C., & Lawrence, M. (Eds.). (2002). Tracing Past, Present, and Future of Servant Leadership. In Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the twenty-first century (pp. pp. 1–16). New York: J. Wiley & Sons.