Sharing Servant Leadership Around the World

It may sound counterintuitive to combine the words “servant” and “leadership,” but Regent University’s School of Business & Leadership (SBL) has gained a global reputation for doing just that for more than a decade. The unique model of management where leaders put their followers first, known as servant leadership, was the focus of a roundtable meeting with servant leader scholars from around the world. Dr. Kathleen Patterson, SBL professor, traveled to Bifrost, Iceland for the third Global Servant Leadership Research Roundtable.

“There are very few servant leadership scholars, but our global roundtables have attracted the best, brightest and most well-known,” said Patterson. “It’s invigorating for all of us to get together because we read one another’s work, and we’re very invested into each other’s literature. We are different from other leaders because we’re all trying to help each other.”

Patterson joined Dirk van Dierendonck, RSM, Erasmus University, and Sigrun Gunnarsdottir, Bifrost University, to host the roundtable at Bifrost in September. Scholars well-versed and new to servant leadership delivered research presentations the first day, collaborating on their research afterward. Patterson shared findings of millennials and mindfulness, discussing the importance of identity.

“Millennials are taking over the workplace,” said Patterson. “Research says they want purpose more than anything. We have to learn how they work, or they’ll leave us behind. They are into creating their own businesses. They want to be in control. They are smart, savvy, technical. They are incredibly entitled, but they’re looking for purpose and are giving of themselves.”

Participants gathered around an actual roundtable for the second day of the event. Patterson and van Dierendonck will compile papers from the event and include them in a special edition of a journal and a book. A pre-event at the University of Iceland drew 150 people from the community to learn more about servant leadership. Patterson explained it through stories, and van Dierendonck shared research.

Patterson sums up servant leadership as loving your employees by seeing them as hired hearts, not just hired hands. She says it requires humility, altruism, and leaders being visionary for their followers, treating them for the people they will become. She says this and future roundtables are a continuation of the work of Regent’s Dr. Bruce Winston who put together the first one in 2003. So far, they have been held in the Netherlands, Australia, and now Iceland. Guests travel to them from all over the globe.

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