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The Personal Qualities That Lead to the Positive Servant Leadership

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Servant or leader? Both. Jack Sim is an excellent practitioner of servant leadership, which begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first, has generosity, authenticity, altruism as main values, and is focused on doing a purposeful work. (Greenleaf, 1998).

A servant leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and communities. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the top of the pyramid, servant leadership means sharing power, empowering colleagues, putting the needs of others first, helping people develop and perform (Gregory Stone et al, 2004, Greenleaf, 2007).

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Russell (2001) notes that servant leadership is based on humility and respect. Servant leaders have honesty and integrity as fundamental personal values, establishing interpersonal and organizational trust, sustainability and stability in relation to all three categories of WTO s audience. In the paradigm of Pearce & Sims (2002), Sim and WTO practice at the same time transformational leadership (involving charisma and ideology), empowering leadership (autonomy, collaboration, high goals, self-management), and shared leadership (people making decisions together). WTO s initiative presents characteristics of collaborative and consultative leadership, in terms of annihilating resistance (Appelbaum et al, 1998, Kotter & Schlesinger, 2008).

For WTO, the keyword is ‘participation’, together with education and negotiation, by directly involving the targeted people in the process of change and lately transforming them into models and endorsers. The development of an integrative pivotal culture of the initiative, in which members and volunteers feel at ease and safe, get support, comfort and solidarity is essential, and the full focus only on beneficiaries needs results in credibility and in the solid impact of the organization’s message transmission (Katzenbach, 1996, Sinek, 2014).

Organizations with servant leaders are structured as networks, not hierarchies, are more mobile and performing, have better motivated and competent components, make decisions faster and more accurately and have far superior operational results (Hamel & Breen, 2007). Empowering-style leadership positively affects intrinsic motivation and engagement, and creativity is a positive outcome (Zhang & Bartol, 2010). Storytelling, humor, and creativity as major tactics in communicating change The role of the leadership in infusing the change by communication is crucial (Millar et al, 2012). Strategic vision articulates the desired change from a current state to an ideal one, but an effective vision must also be true to the culture and values of the community and be presented vividly, with passion, emotion, and conviction (Armenakis & Harris, 2002).

The five essential components of the change message (Armenakis et al, 1999) are discrepancy (something is wrong, needs to change), efficacy (confidence in the ability to succeed), appropriateness (change is adapted to the environment), principal support (honest full implication of authority) and personal valence (targeted group shows interest). Good communication, combined with low or moderate pressure, is essential for motivating individuals to support change. When change is mitigated (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010), interest is aroused, people start using their abilities, feel satisfaction and positive motivation. Communication is informative but creates a sense of community if aligned with people s expectations (Elving, 2005, Frahm & Brown, 2007).

Poor communication and failure to reward or recognize individuals who make the effort to change are barriers to success (Klein, 1996, Gilley et al, 2009). Secondary publics (media and institutions) have the same need for strong communication, their full cooperation results from a creative approach, that delivers direct benefits (high-quality content for journalists, and positive public perception but the reduction of social costs as well for authorities). The role of creativity in communicating WTO s objectives is essential and contributes to convincing all three targeted publics (people, media, and authorities) to support and join the initiative. Unconventional communication style, self-irony, humor, simple but colorful language, rich visuals and guerilla marketing tactics (assuming ‘Mr. Toilet’ identity, trolling Super Mario cartoons, pirating the acronym of World Trade Organization or pronouncing ‘WTO’ as ‘BeautyOh’) are meant to create empathy, sympathy, and unity. The goal of creativity itself is not to produce art but to change human behavior, by formulating a very attractive “sales proposition” (Levinson, 2001).

Creative minds do not think imitatively but unconventional and productively, refuse the traditional approach and look at any problem in many ways, from many angles, rethink, dismantle and dissect the topic by playing roles, expressing it differently (Michalko, 2001). The gesture of group squatting, the use of toilets and toilet caps in unconventional situations (even in the logo), courageous use of symbols such as the pile of shit represent unconventional techniques of positioning and building memes and identity (Levinson, 2001). Humor has a serious impact on workgroups and organizations, reduces stress and enhances leadership, cohesiveness, communication, creativity, and organizational culture (Avolio et al, 1999, Romero & Cruthirds, 2006, Romero & Pescosolido, 2008).

A valuable role of humor is to build support, by identifying communicators with their audiences and enhancing social competence, emotional intelligence and speaker credibility (Chang & Gruner, 1981, Yip & Martin, 2006, Lyttle, 2007). Wood et al (2011) warn that humor can be either the most promising communication strategy or a liability for a manager, a double-edged sword that can unify or divide (Meyer, 2000), depending on multiple cultural and contextual factors and bringing the opportunity of excellent results, but presuming big risks of failure at the same time (Crawford, 1994, Vecchio et al, 2009).

Strong ideas and opinions are penetrating, credible and popular, and are rapidly spreading, especially online and in high-density human communities, when they contain six success factors, merged into the acronym STEPPS (Berger, 2013): social currency, triggers, emotion, public visibility, practical value and story (when content offers a special status to those who distribute it, calls upon common experiences, creates powerful emotion, has good notoriety, brings practical value and tells a fascinating story with heroes, models, fantastic achievements and extraordinary adventures). Concrete and vivid stories exert extraordinary influence and create touching moments, a well-told narrative provides attractive details and changes people s view of how the world works, because it presents a plausible, touching, and memorable flow of cause and effect (Sole & Wilson, 2002, Grenny et al, 2013).

The central core of the story consists of the moral values, which offers its profound meaning. By appealing to the quality of citizen and potential hero of every individual, good stories able to mobilize determine a natural motivation, give the feeling of participating in a profound and powerful initiative that does well for the humanity in general (Sachs, 2012). Denning (2005) considers that stories should include a solid, true, and positive basic idea, reveal a genuine leader at an important time for him, provide a strong and valuable promise for auditors, and rely on strong values of the audience. When built correctly, the story works as a trampoline, cultivates hope (Ganz, 2010) and provides a safe jump to a new, satisfying reality.

Brown et al (2009) recognize the role of stories in transformational processes, by projecting a new and desired future and mapping, encouraging, managing or inviting change. Stories play often the role of backbones for human communities, working at the same time as aids to memory and ways of forgetting, diagnostic tools and distractions, means for social control and expressions of liberation, structuring the present and the future for people belonging to a certain group (Beckman & Berry, 2009, Barker & Gower, 2010).

When it s about innovation in a society and transformation involving huge human collectives, change is not successful if it is not correctly and fully communicated and if it does not synchronize with the general changes in the macro environment. Beyond that, a communication strategy which is creative, courageous, innovative, pragmatical, challenging, and based on honesty, transparency, collaboration, and generosity is absolutely necessary, in the context of culturally isolated and conservative communities, of a highly crowded communication environment and some media full of fake, useless, and toxic content. The leader’s role model and leader’s belief is essential, and the initiative has additional chances of success when the initiator is genuine, altruistic, generous, and willing to let aside all its private interests. A powerful social change needs a strong story behind, playing the role of a convincing ‘sales proposition’ and bringing people together in a process that empowers simply individuals and transforms a projected situation in reality. Leaders performing authentic storytelling have a central role in developing an ethical and spiritual organizational culture, this way members will connect to a larger community and embrace a higher purpose (Brown, 2006, Boal & Schulz, 2007, Driscoll & McKee, 2007). ‘Those who tell the stories rule society’, once said Plato.


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