We can find several historic examples of servant leadership. One of them is Jean Monnet, a Frenchman who played an essential role in the instigation of the European Union. Birkenmeier et al. (2003) described Monnet’s contribution during World Wars I and II, and his role in the unification of Europe, in terms of four key components of servant lead- ership as formulated by Farling et al. (1999): vision, credibility, trust, and service. Monnet came from a family with assets in the cognac industry. After World War I, he worked for 10 years in the family business and in international banking. He was very successful and, as a result, became financially independent. This allowed him to hold unpaid positions in organizations that focused on the greater good. Before and during World War II, he was instrumental in smoothing the relations between England and the United States by getting the latter to release war loans and materials and, in general, getting its industry war-ready before the United States actually entered the war. After the war ended, Monnet cre- ated the European Coal and Steel Community, which was the forerunner
6 Servant Leadership: An Introduction of the current European Union. In terms of servant leadership, Monnet had the unique capacity to see the long-term needs of countries, always stressing the need to collaborate. Because he had no political ambition himself, politicians found they could trust him; they believed that he truly worked for the sake of mankind. The fact that he demanded no fee was extremely helpful in this respect. Instead of pursuing a career in the family business or in international banking, he put himself in service of the dream of a united Europe. Another historic example of a servant-leader is George Washington, often called the ‘Father of Our Country’ in the United States due to his pivotal role. He demonstrated how one can have real position power, use it for the good of the society in which one lives, and combine it with the ability to let go of the power after the task is accomplished (Keith, 2008). Washington was Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in the War of Independence against Great Britain, and served as the first president of the United States of America. After winning the war, he returned to his plantation at Mount Vernon. Due to the need of the still young and struggling nation, he returned to the political forefront, being elected president in 1789. After serving for two terms, he refused to run for a third time. Another powerful example of historical servant leadership is William Wilberforce, an Englishman who devoted his life to the abolition of the slave trade in England. Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament, devoted himself in selfless service for the good of others, even when it was an incredibly unpopular stance to take. Wilberforce drew strength from his religious principles and, though Wilberforce was the youngest Member of Parliament ever elected, and is still so to this day, he stands as an historical tower of a man with great endurance and commitment to service, having devoted more than forty years to the eradication of the slave trade in the British Empire. Even though he was vilified in the press of the day, physically assaulted for his beliefs, and suffered great personal ill-health, his dedication to serving others – at great personal cost to himself – leaves a gentle path of an example of servanthood.
Dierendonck, D. V. & Kathleen, P. 2010. Servant Leadership, Developments in Theory and Research.