Servant Leadership: Theory & Practice


Optimal experience – also known as Flow – was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975 in his research study of joy, creativity, and the total involvement with life. Optimal experience is about focused attention and control of consciousness. Likewise, servant leadership is a conscious choice which aspires one to lead (Greenleaf, 1970). After a close examination of the philosophy of servant leadership by Greenleaf (1970), the attributes and behaviours of servant leaders by Laub (1999), Russell and Stone (2002), Patterson (2003), Keith (2008), Spears (2010), and Sipe and Frick (2015), it is argued that the work of a servant leader meets most if not all of the prescriptions of the flow model as listed by Csikszentmihalyi (1990). In the state of flow, a servant leader’s personal identity (i.e. the concept of self) and social identity (i.e. the concept of self based on perceived membership in a relevant social group) is also consolidated. A practical implication of this conceptual discussion is that a servant leader, who serves the betterment of others and the greater good of the society, should create an environment for others to experience flow. When the cumulated works of a servant leader fit together into a unified optimal experience, he/she finds fulfillment and lives a meaningful life. This is an example of the power and promise of servant leadership as posed by Greenleaf (1970).