Universiti Malaya – Wales

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By Prof Dr Jasmine Ahmad

I was browsing for new articles for the MBA class and stumbled upon this one; the title of which piqued my interest. ‘Academic Servant Leadership’ – it reminds me of the days engaging in leadership research and interviewing several of the country’s eminent leaders, recognising various leadership styles including servant leadership. Servant leadership was advocated by Robert Greenleaf in 1970, in his essay entitled “The Servant as Leader”. The goal of servant leadership is to serve, using persuasion rather than authority to encourage people to act. Implicitly, it is an ultimate concern for the individuals, closeness and empathy in the relationship between leader and followers.

This article was written by Ricky Wang, the Dean of Faculty of Business and Economics at Petra Christian University, Indonesia. It highlights the challenges of leading and managing a faculty in a private university during a pandemic. Funding is one of the challenges; students and parents are requesting fee reductions, but at the same time there is pressure from universities’ management to give more to the students. The necessity to lead and teach from a distance was synonymous with teaching-learning and leadership in a crisis. The article reflects on the concept of academic servant leadership and how it was utilised in leading colleagues, students, and oneself. To quote from the article, “Academic leadership demands academic example and academic execution. Academic example explains the roles of the academic leader, while the latter explains the management of the academic activities”.

In leading (serving) his colleagues, he launched a performance system that is both flexible and fixed. Flexible, meaning lecturers could work from home or at the office with flexible working hours. Fixed, meaning they also need to reach their performance targets such as students’ satisfaction and the quality of their published papers. In serving his students, he designed appropriate individual tasks and group projects by listening to their stories. Finally, servant leaders should be concerned with their personal growth and self-leadership too to serve others. It is an interesting read, to which many of us can relate.

We are not alone in facing these difficult times. Many of us are adapting to the new requirements in leading and managing education. Servant leadership is perhaps a viable alternative; we may have even been implementing it without realising it is servant leadership. Do we have the servant leadership characteristics – listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualisation, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of the people and building community? After all, great leadership is about humility and serving.

Source / Reference

Ricky Wang. 2021. Academic Servant Leadership during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A reflection from Indonesia. Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia. Retrieved from https://kyotoreview.org/pandemic-pedagogy/academic-servant-leadership-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-a-reflection-from-indonesia/

Greenleaf, R.K. 1970. The servant as leader. Westfield, Indiana: The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership