Princess Diana is the epitome of a servant leader. A “great leader is seen as a servant first, and the simple fact is the key to her greatness. What she is deep down inside” (Greenleaf, 19). In her effort to serve others, Princess Diana brought awareness of AIDS research and hunger awareness in impoverished countries, showed empathy towards people with leprosy when it was still seen as an untouchable disease, and fought against the use of land mines. She exhibited the core traits of a servant leader, such as listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building community (Sendjaya, 57). Former President Bill Clinton recapitulated her servant leader traits in a 1987 quote:
There is a strong biblical relationship between charisma and servant leadership. Princess Diana was able to “empower her followers by enhancing their perceptions of self-efficacy and their confidence in their ability to overcome obstacles, by using verbal persuasion and verbal recognition, and by functioning as a role model” (Choi, 28). The charismatic quality of Princess Diana’s “individual personality by virtue of which she is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at the least specifically exceptional qualities” (Sendjaya, 61). When Princess Diana visited the sick or oppressed, she was seen as extraordinary by her followers.
In defining Princess Diana as a servant leader, it is important to differentiate a servant leader from a transformational leader. Servant leadership exceeds transformational leadership (Bass) in two ways 1) “its recognition of the leaders social responsibilities to serve those people who are marginalized by a system 2) its dedication to followers needs and interests as opposed to those of their own or their organization” (Sendjaya, 62). Princess Diana advocated for people who otherwise would not have a voice because of the social system that existed in the United Kingdom and dedicated herself to the mission of her followers and the people she served as opposed to her position as Princess of Wales.
Theorists Choi and Mai-Dalton question the authenticity of servant leadership, saying “it could merely be nothing but a tactic to impress followers and manipulate their responses to reciprocate,” however, what would Princess Diana have to personally gain from serving others (Sendjaya, 60)? Princess Diana was first a servant, than a leader. Her works as a servant compelled her to lead. “The servant leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead” (Greenleaf, 22). Princess Diana’s legacy is left up to her followers to fulfill. As a servant leader, she provided the education and example to her followers, now it is up to them to live out her mission.
Do you think Kate Middleton exhibits the same servant-like characteristics of Princess Diana and will follow her example as princess? Did Princess Diana’s strong servant leadership style interfere with her ability to be an effective member of the royal family? Did Princess Diana emerge as a servant leader because of her position as princess, or did her position make her a servant leader?