Servant Leadership in a Diverse Context


Servant leadership mainly focuses on people’s growth and well-being and the communities they belong to. It is a philosophy where individuals interact with others to gain authority rather than power (Sulaeman, 2020). All cultures and religions have an interesting perspective on leadership and how leaders should treat their followers. The servant leadership theory argues that the most effective leaders are servants of their people. This paper will analyze servant leadership from the perspective of the Indian culture and the Islamic religion.

How Principles of Servant Leadership Are Evident In Indian Culture

India is a country that is fascinating and diverse, with numerous languages, castes, cultures, and religions. The Indian culture is shaped by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, and Ambedkar (Carroll & Patterson, 2017). These leaders are role models of leadership, and their qualities and teachings have been practiced throughout the country (Nayak, 2018). There are numerous examples of servant leadership principles portrayed by these Indian leaders (Kumar, 2018). The principles of servant leadership that the Indian culture has include humility, accountability, vulnerability, and self-awareness.

Gandhi is one of the most renowned Indian leaders. He practices humility and puts his subject’s needs before his. He chose voluntary poverty so that he could be closer to his subjects. He was also a leader who did not seek influential posts (Kumar, 2018). As a leader of the Indian National Congress, he allowed younger leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru to rise and become leaders of the National Congress. Gandhi took pleasure in serving his people and doing what was best for his followers. Servant leaders do not coerce or manipulate staff members into compliance (Nayak, 2018). They serve the staff and therefore increase excellence and productivity.

Servant leaders not only have a personal obligation to serve the community and give back, but they also have a responsibility to encourage this type of activity and help followers realize the significance of giving back and what it means for the company, the community, and the individuals they support (Carroll & Patterson, 2017). Through his leadership, Gandhi inspired the Indian community to be more selfless. He was keen on giving to the poor, serving the community, and making the country a better place to live. He was also able to lead nonaggressive revolutions in the country. The Indian culture believes in giving to the poor and helping them attain better living standards (Kumar, 2018). The Gita tradition requires Indian leaders to be humanistic. This means they should not have any personal gain but should lead with high personal concern for their subordinates and subjects. The leaders need to be friendly, compassionate, forgiving, and egoistic in balancing pain and pleasure (Nayak, 2018). The arthasastra also requires that the Indian king consider the welfare and happiness of their followers.

Principles of Servant Leadership in Islam Religion

According to the teachings of the prophet Mohammad, leaders should emphasize the importance of dedication and honesty of leaders in serving their followers (Abdallah et al., 2019). In Islam, servant leadership is expressed through disinterest and selfless concerns. In religion, people are urged to be selfless, help the needy, and share what they have with those who do not have anything. The Quran asks people to give preference to others over themselves even though they are in need themselves (Sulaeman, 2020). Another essential principle of servant leadership demonstrated by the Islamic religion is emotional healing. Servant leaders need to demonstrate leadership that should be concerned with the emotional well-being of the servants. The servant leadership theory indicates that leaders should be concerned with the emotional well-being of their servants. The teachings of the Quran and the lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad guide the people’s actions (Kasuma et al., 2019). Religion guides people toward emotional healing among the people. God is the healer, and therefore, there is a significant relationship between servant leadership and Islamic teachings. Stewardship is also a principle highly promoted in the Islamic religion. Stewardship is the act of leaders extending a decisive hand to the community and society (Sulaeman, 2020). Within the Islamic religion, the community has a critical role the religion. These roles can be assessed by comparing donations and rituals such as Zakat.

The Islam religion calls for the appropriate wealth distribution and discourages unbalance in the community (Sulaeman, 2020). Prophet Muhammad also encouraged the people to live in harmony and peace. Islam leaders are caretakers and need to understand the reciprocal relationship between leaders and followers. Leaders should ensure ethical treatment and decision-making for all the communities they serve (Abdallah et al., 2019). The Quran is also against corruption and states that the briber and the bribe recipient are cursed. Corruption includes acts of briber, unlawful donations and gifts, nepotism, extortion, favoritism, buying influence, and fraud. The Quran calls believers to be affectionate toward each other and speak good works and behave modestly (Kasuma et al., 2019). They need to command what is right and avoid all manner of wrongdoing.

Similarities between Servant Leadership Philosophies in Indian Culture and Islam Religion

There are numerous similarities between servant leadership in the Indian culture and Islam religion. One of the most prominent is that leaders are required to put the needs of their followers first. Gandhi urged the Indian leaders to consider the lives of their followers and ensure that they are well served and provided for. Both also disagree on favoritism, which means that corruption should be shunned since it encourages a distinction between the people involved (Carroll & Patterson, 2017). It means that those who do not have the money to bribe the leaders will not have their needs met and will live in deplorable conditions as a result. Both are keen on ensuring that leaders focus on helping the needy in society (Kasuma et al., 2019). According to both philosophies, servant leaders should be humble and willing to engage with staff and followers. In their handling of others, humble leaders are constant and focused. They show respect to everyone, irrespective of their status, role, or title. They are aware of their limitations. Humble leaders are self-assured enough to own their flaws (Abdallah et al., 2019). The philosophies also focus on developing a good relationship with the people and among the leaders. A good relationship between the leader and those being led will ensure that the leader can listen to his people and the followers can trust their leader.

Trust and listening are both essential principles that a good leader should have. Stewardship is also promoted in both philosophies as Prophet Muhammad teaches that people do good to society by sharing wealth between the rich and the poor (Abdallah et al., 2019). Leaders should endorse their servants with gifts and other material help that the followers may need. Gandhi also taught, through example, the importance of giving to the poor (Carroll & Patterson, 2017). He lived in voluntary poverty and donated most of his wealth to the needy. Finally, both the principles agree on the importance of spirituality for leaders. Muslims are centered on doing what is halal and pleasing to God (Kasuma et al., 2019). Gandhi spoke of a spiritual force, an “inner voice” that spoke to him emphatically about non-violence, compassion, and altruism in his actions and throughout his life. Both agree that where leaders are spiritual, they are likely to have a much better leadership style and can apply the servant leadership model with more ease.

Differences in Servant Leadership Philosophies Between Indian Culture And Islam Religion

The main difference between servant leadership philosophies and Islamic religious values is that while the theories are meant to be productive within the organization (Abdallah et al., 2019). The religious values are aimed at enhancing spiritual growth and harmony. However, in the Indian culture, the values are meant to promote peace and harmony among all the people and improve people’s living standards in the community (Carroll & Patterson, 2017).


Servant leadership is one of the most renowned leadership models since it allows more trust between the leader and his followers. Indian culture has numerous core values rooted in developing a good relationship between the leaders and the followers. Both aim at increasing peace and collaboration among various leaders to improve the services that the people are getting.



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Carroll, B. C., & Patterson, K. (2017). Servant leadership: A cross-cultural study between India and the United States. Servant Leadership: Theory & Practice1(1), 3.

Kasuma, J., Lajuni, N., Benjamin, A. F., Prasankan, H., Herjanto, H., & Darma, D. C. (2019). The effect of spirituality on Islamic leadership effectiveness. Economic Series, 21(4), 623-636.

Kumar, S. (2018). Servant leadership: A review of literature. Pacific Business Review International11(1), 43-50. Doi: 10.1504/IJICBM.2018.088593

Nayak, A. K. (2018). Effective leadership traits from Bhagavad Gita. International Journal of Indian Culture and Business Management16(1), 1-18.

Sulaeman, S. (2020). A Review Of Servant And Transformational Leadership Style In Islamic Perspectives: A Lesson From The Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) As An Excellent Role Model For Muslim Leaders In Indonesia. Nazharat: Jurnal Kebudayaan26(02), 371-387.

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