Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Servant Leadership

I first became interested in getting a doctorate when I dreamed up a course in servant leadership. My name for it was something more like "community service development" but when I looked at existing courses at my university (feeling sure such a wonderful idea must already exist) I found the name for it. What I wanted to do in such a course was help students develop programs to serve the community - either with their own ideas or by improving existing ones - so they could appreciate the value of giving back once they reached Corporate America. The best businesses out there do a great deal for the communities where they exist - some give scholarships, some fund public schools, others sponsor cleanup projects, just to name a few. By working to improve a community, a business can improve its name which can in turn strengthen customer loyalty. I think most people start giving back for an even better reason - it feels good, and it's the right thing to do. Nurturing the environment that supports the business is much like caring for the soil in a garden. The more care one takes to weed, water, and fertilize it, the better the fruits and vegetables are that come out. The more care a business gives its community, the better the employees, customers, and products are that are involved with the business. I knew one man fairly well vicariously because my father worked for him for more than twenty years that did a great deal to demonstrate servant leadership - J.B. Fuqua. He gave large amounts of money to Duke University to name their business school after him, and that school now hosts the Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE), which is an offshoot of servant leadership. Social entrepreneurship refers to businesses developed to serve a need in a community first, with profit and sustainability being a secondary goal. My co-blogger, Todd, and I had a great chat on this subject, and we both have a great deal of interest in studying social entrepreneurship. I feel strongly that this area will play a large role in my studies in a doctoral program, if I can make it work. If not, I will certainly focus my future research and teaching on the subject as much as any university willing to employ me will allow. I believe I can probably even write my dissertation on the subject, if it's not stealing from Todd to do so. To be fair, I have suggested that he and I co-author such a dissertation from two different disciplines of study - his being public administration and mine being entrepreneurship. Perhaps a book on the subject might follow. For now, I at least feel very good about what I should discuss in my applications to the various doctoral programs I am looking in to.

-- Robert

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