Leadership is a trait that in essence, all human beings possess, it is of critical importance to understand the basic tenets of leadership through which leadership qualities are derived. Leadership entails directing, justice, vision, humility and control; these five tenets give a clear outlook of outstanding leaders. Globally, leadership shows itself in cross-culturally, and in different religious constructs, this kind of leadership is servant leadership. Servant leadership is best associated with inclusive and participative decision-making paradigms. The ultimate goal of a servant leader is to encourage, motivate and enable their subordinates to attain their maximum potential. It is clear to understand that leadership should be modeled by these values, but in many scenarios, the ideals are not met. It begs to question where did servant leadership disappear to and if at all there are any recognized individuals or nations practicing servant leadership. In this paper, we are going to take an outlook of how cultural and religious precepts have had an effect on servant leadership.
Servant leadership looks into the leader as more of a servant than a leader. It builds its philosophies on the perspective that one is naturally geared towards serving. This conscious choice of serving as opposed to leading is what makes a servant leader stand out of the crowd. It is only natural that each and every individual would want to be a leader and it is for this reasons that servant leadership raises the bar; asking for leaders to be responsible. There is no power that comes without responsibility, and it is only befitting that the lazy are not accorded leadership positions; such would only delegate tons of responsibilities to others without exhibiting participatory leadership. Whats more, leaders who are not supportive of servant leadership as a way of leading would find it hard to be transformational.
Different cultures have traits of servant leadership, these practices have been passed on down generations through a hands-on approach, and oral tradition and little traces can be seen in the society today. It is important to acknowledge that on a global level, religious and cultural perspectives have a great influence on the need and existence of servant leadership.
Similarities and Difference of Servant Leadership and Thailands Socio-cultural Background
Thailand is significantly composed of immigrants from China and India. Culturally, the people of Thailand have adopted different cultures and ways of life. The majority of the cultural and religious values have been adopted from Sanskrit and Pali books which originally originate from India. The rich tapestry of Thailands culture emanates from Confucianism; a philosophy that is originally Chinese. The blend of three cultures has led to a much more cosmopolitan nation. Leadership is highly influenced by the cultural beliefs of a given people; leadership is externally influenced by cultural values. Whats more, leadership is influenced by the following factors; personal qualities, managerial behaviors, organizational demands and environmental influences. When it comes to decision making, the Thais prefer that the decision is made for them; this is to say that it is expected of leaders to make wise unilateral decisions on behalf of the people that they lead and not to seek quorum and consensus from them. With such a disposition, leadership excellence is achieved in Thailand due to lower consultative approaches that save time; in comparison to servant leadership precepts, decision styles are entirely different. Servant leadership calls for consultative decision making where leaders bring on employees to discuss the benefits and repercussions of decisions.
Organizational culture in many firms across Thailand gives a systematic way with which leaders abide by. The cultural setting in Thailand is that of Kreng Chai (jai), this cultural perspective represents a situation where leaders practice benevolence and respect for others. This cultural aspect shows a great similarity of Thai leadership styles with servant leadership. It is important to acknowledge that both leadership styles considers the welfare of others when it comes to decision making. This resemblance indicates practices of servant leadership that are influenced by the Thai culture. In addition to that, it expects of leaders not to look down on the people that they lead but to ensure their needs are met comfortably.
Similarities and Differences of Religious Values and Servant Leadership
Religious values, more so Christian values, are considered to be the major contributors to servant leadership principles. Within a Christian perspective, the greatest among men i.e. the leader is the one who serves others. Christian perspectives on leadership are inspired by Jesus and his disciples; more so the instance when Jesus, who was their leader, chose to wash the feet of his disciples. In this account, we are going to look into other religions in regards to their perceptions of leadership.
The Buddhist view of leadership is one based on the El, primary role system of leadership. Buddhism in Thailand is almost fully adopted in by approximately 60% of the population. The El which a religious perspective to leadership looks into the development of primary leadership groupings that allow for a common point of reference. This highly relates to the hierarchical order of worship in Buddhism. This is totally different from servant leadership which looks into having a consultative panel where e-leadership decisions are made.
Servant leadership and Buddhism have a few similarities, the values of the religion insist on a leader first being a servant and then leader. The culture acknowledges that leadership cannot be taken up by anyone, but the person bestowed with such responsibilities should look into the needs of others. Buddhism teaches one to practice humility, leadership, and care for the people they serve; this shares a commonality with servant leadership in a way that the people are highly looked out for a while exercising leadership (Trompenaars and Voerman).
In conclusion, servant leadership can be seen through cultural and religious practices of Kreng Jai in Thailand, Buddhism influence of servant leadership also in Thailand. This proves that servant leadership is in essence religiously and culturally influenced. It is common knowledge that the society is never geared towards dictatorial leadership but that leadership that is defined by inclusive and care for fellow people. Servant leadership is highly influenced by cultural values and religious values which are inherently focused on the wellbeing of the community members at all times. It is also very noteworthy that despite several religious and inter-denominational differences, servant leadership gets the support of all; this is because it advocates for leaders to regard those they lead not as subjects but as equals; equals because there can be no leader without followers.
Matteson, J. A., & Irving, J. A. (2006). Servant versus self-sacrificial leadership: a behavioral comparison of two follow-oriented leadership theories. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 2(1), 36-51.
Selvarajah, C., Meyer, D., & Donovan, J. (2013). Cultural context and its influence on managerial leadership in Thailand. Asia Pacific Business Review, 19(3), 356-380.
Trompenaars, Fons and Ed Voerman. Servant Leadership Across Cultures. 1st ed. Oxford: Infinite Ideas Ltd., 2009. Print.
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