In India leadership is synonomous with authority and power. Its therefore not strange to read a post online that expects there to be the use of power in leadership and would go on to detail ‘6 Important Types of Power in Leadership’. One of them which we are very familiar with is ‘coercive power’. The article states this as the power that
“comes from authority. It is the ability to threaten or punish. The leader can give tangible punishments like dismissal, demotion, low rating etc. Psychological punishments include criticism, avoidance, disapproval, satirical remarks to the subordinate.”
This is leadership in India that many of us are familiar with and which our mandatory reading on the ‘Evolution And Study of Servant Leadership’ points out at the start — the use and misuse of power. Whilst the essay goes on to show the development of leadership with the influence of ‘spirituality, altruism and ethics’ sadly these aren’t practiced in our context where by and large we equate leadership with power. We applaud ‘powerful leaders’, our cultural expressions on celluloid underline that and at times seek to undermine that through the emergence of a people’s hero who does powerful things and becomes a leader himself. This was best seen in the Godfather shadow movie, ‘Sarkar’ where the reluctant son becomes the new godfather.
Our political, business and spiritual contexts aren’t different either. Across the board we have the same equation being played out on similar lines. One of the interesting observations on the application of and measurement of Servant Leadership was the inability by Prof Mandana in the Unit 1 Video to cite any Indian organisation where this leadership is practiced. No doubt they are there but I wonder if they are few and far between. We are unable to understand that leadership is a role and/or function that like Leo in ‘Journey to the East’ doesn’t require the kind of power that is normally equated with leadership.
An aside was the tragedy that it required a Leo and Prof Greenleaf to start the discovery, practice and application of Servant Leadership. Prof Mandana’s comment, ‘Greenleaf succeeded where Christian leaders had failed’ was a painful reminder of our past and the urgent summons to Christlikeness in our leadership.