Servant Leadership in Spiritual Communities – Part 1

Sections of this topic

    Crystal Davis read my blog posts last year and emailed me inquiring about other resources related to Spirituality at work. She’s doing her dissertation on Servant Leadership. I’ve enjoyed exchanging ideas with her over the past year.

    I invited Crystal to share some of her dissertation topic for our blog posts this month. Here is a brief summary she wrote on Servant Leadership and how she’s researching it for her dissertation.



    What does self-transcendence have to do with servant leadership? This is the question that has sparked deep interest for me well over three years now. My doctorate proposal will ask this question to find out if a correlation exists between spirituality (self-transcendence) and servant leadership within an organization called Centers for Spiritual Living. There have been several other studies that used faith based organizations and these studies found mixed results. In a study conducted in two African American rural churches in North Carolina reflected concerns about the demonstration of servant leadership and the potential problems extending toward new lay leaders. The demonstration of effective servant leadership is important for new lay leaders, and the pastors of the churches should establish a training program for lay leadership. Further research could focus on the perception and practice of servant leadership in other denominations and among other ethnic groups, other characteristics of servant leadership, and the cultural, political, and social factors that influence servant leadership. My study will take these concerns to heart and look at servant leadership in another faith –based denomination. To date, no study has been done with Centers for Spiritual Living.

    More attention is being devoted to the theory of servant leadership. What is Servant Leadership? It is a leadership theory coined by Robert Greenleaf in which the leader sees him/herself as a servant first and a leader second. Servant leaders put forth selfless service to the individuals of the organization with the intrinsic perspective toward self-actualization for everyone. Servant leadership possesses characteristics such as voluntary subordination, authentic self, covenantal relationship, responsible morality, transcendental spirituality, and transforming influence.

    Servant Leadership should not be confused with the idea that if you are a servant leader, you will be taken advantage of. On the contrary, a servant leader can serve without being servile. Of relevance is the Servant leaders’ quality of selfless service, which is an intrinsic desire to serve, that comes from within.

    When leaders are firmly grounded in servant leadership principles and are more self-transcendent (spiritual), the reputation of the organization can return multiple dividends in terms of greater investment and growth of the people. When awareness takes place in the universal human condition, it will be understood that energy unites everything, and one’s purpose will change from serving individualistic needs to serving others.

    This proposed quantitative correlational research study may produce results supporting the need for organizations to employ mature self-transcendent (spiritual) leaders who employ servant leadership behavior to lead spiritual organizations. The results could aid scholars, leaders, and practitioners who engage in servant leadership behavior by revealing situatedness through which servant leadership principles can be developed, modeled, and sustained. If a relationship exists between self-transcendence and servant leadership behavior, this could determine a need for critical analysis on how servant leadership training programs can be developed administered, and sustained in various spiritual organizations.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.


    Crystal J Davis holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Kansas State University, a Masters in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma, and will graduate with a Doctorate in Management and Organizational Leadership from University of Phoenix in December 2013.

    Ms. 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.