I can't say I'm a big fan of Servant Leadership. The idea, in principle, sounds great: a leader or manager is a servant inasmuch as s/he "serves" the "followers." The leader or manager works for the team, the organization, etc.
I saw a lot of this in my rock & roll days as mentioned in a previous post. A band’s management works for the band not the other way around. That management is usually hired (and often fired) by the band, and needs to produce results on behalf of the band. A revolutionary governance model if practiced in mainstream business. Of course most businesses are started by owner/managers who hire others as subordinates not managers. But if those managers at least acted as if they could be fired by their subordinates, that might be useful.
So if Servant Leadership is designed to turn the organizational chart upside down, what’s not to like? SL in practice, however, is often used in subtle ways to reinforce hierarchy, with paternalistic overtones. (Some have argued, including Deborah Eicher-Catt, that the very language of Servant Leadership reinforces a model of hierarchy and patriarchy.) The notion of "Father Knows Best"—that management (usually men) knows SO much more than lowly subordinates (and deserves privileged status and ginormous benefits)—is still firmly embedded in our thinking and is largely unquestioned. This is then made palatable by asking these managers to act as if they’re actually servants of their employees (wink, wink). How noblesse oblige.
Of course there are organizational leaders, change agents, and thought leaders who embrace Servant Leadership in order to disrupt, not entrench, the old order. The architect of Servant Leadership himself, Robert Greenleaf, was instrumental in his time in distinguishing leadership from coercion and control. But the term seems to have outlived its usefulness. It's clearly been co-opted in recent years by those who don’t have a clue about the radical message SL was intended to deliver.
For instance, Servant Leadership has even been used to justify a primitive view of women. Reverend Mike Huckabee, an actual candidate for US President for 2016 (not 1916) once remarked, "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband." (I’m not making this up.) Androcentrism at its worst.
No wonder feminists have been teeing off on Servant Leadership for a while.
To many of us, SL is better known by its other name: Neo-patriarchy.