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{Excerpt} Servant leadership is now in the vocabularyof enlightened leadership. It is a practical, altruistic philosophy that supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead, as away of expanding service to individuals and organizations.The sense of civil community that it advocates and engenders can facilitate and smooth successful and principled change.

Ancient schools of thought about great men and more recent (sometimes overlapping) explanations form an ever-growing literature on leadership. In modern times, three broad categories have encompassed related theories: approaches have explored the traits (1940s–1950s) then behaviors or styles (1950s–1960s) of successful leaders; examined the contextual nature of leadership and the role of followers (1960s–1970s); and investigated what interactions of traits, behaviors, and situations (as well as group facilitation) might allow people to transact or transform for excellence (1980s). At the risk of simplifying, notwithstanding a few notable exceptions, these perspectives have been hierarchical, linear, male, Newtonian, pragmatic, and, above all, concerned with the leader as an individual.


Suggested Citation

Serrat, O. (2010). Exercising servant leadership. Washington, DC: Asian Development Bank.

Required Publisher's Statement

This article was first published by the Asian Development Bank (