As part of a course on practicemanagement and leadershiptaught to professional students,the faculty and I have suggestedthat students aspire to become servantleaders. At first glance, the term appearsto be an oxymoron. Let me share withyou a description of a servant leader byRobert Greenleaf, the man who coinedthe phrase, taken from his book entitledServant As Leader:
"The servant-leader is servant first?. Itbegins with the natural feeling that onewants to serve, to serve first. Then consciouschoice brings one to aspire tolead. He or she is sharply different fromthe person who is leader first, perhapsbecause of the need to assuage anunusual power drive or to acquire materialpossessions. For such it will be a laterchoice to serve—after leadership isestablished. The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Betweenthem there are shadings andblends that are part of the infinite varietyof human nature."
From my point of view, servant leadershipis slowly replacing the traditionalhierarchical leadership philosophies.Servant leadership promotes caring, selflessness,collaboration, mutualtrust with followers, and afocus on those the leaders representas the priority of the unitor organization. In professionalpharmacy practice, pharmacistsrebel at the use of autocraticmanagement for goodreason. We are fundamentallybright, are committed to ourpatients, make professionaldaily judgments that can haveprofound impacts on patientsand entire organizations, andassume responsibility given tous by public trust. In otherwords, pharmacists do notneed anyone to tell them whatto do. They need experiencedcolleagues as leaders who areenablers, who overcome obstacles forthe collective good, who support, encourage,and mentor, and who empowerthem to achieve their individual performanceexpectations and goals as well asthose of the organization.
Among the noblest facets of servantleadership is the ethical use of authorityand empowerment. Expectations ofstockholders, stakeholders, and otherleaders in an organization and personalrisk and aspirations can affect the servantleader, especially if he or she doesnot hold a formal leadership position.Finally, the servant leadership philosophyis not limited to an individual, but can(and should) be espoused by entireorganizations.
I encourage you to learn more aboutservant leadership and apply its basicprinciples to your own leadership opportunities.I would also suggest thatwe expect that organizations to whichwe belong adopt servant leadership astheir corporate philosophy. While Iaccept that this last challenge may bedifficult in all hospitals, perhaps wecould start with professional organizations.Do your local, state, and nationalorganizations empower their membershipsand put the priorities of their individualmembers before themselves? Dothey listen, care about their members,establish priorities collaboratively, andhold themselves accountable to themembership? Do they use theirresources and influence ethically andfor the greater good? Do the leaders inyour hospitals and in your departmentsdo the same? What do you think?
Mr. McAllister is director of pharmacyat University of North Carolina (UNC)Hospitals and Clinics and associatedean for clinical affairs at UNCSchool of Pharmacy, Chapel Hill.