I am struck as I read Kolp & Rhea’s book, Leading with Integrity: Character-Based Leadership, that the traits they propose as necessary for one to provide servant leadership in the 21st century seem to be the same traits a non-leader would aim for to create a stable and satisfying life.
Kolp & Rhea (2006) begin their book by stating the importance of living life with virtue and values, advice from Aristotle who felt that “happiness occurs as a by-product of doing something worthy” (p. 8). They also speak to the importance of building character (p. 22), and developing the traits required to lead with honor: competence, courage, faith, justice, corporate or business responsibility, prudence, temperance, compassion, hope and worthiness (pp. vi-x).
In considering this, it seems the book could have just as easily been titled Living with Integrity: A Character-Based Life, as well as Leading with Integrity: Character-Based Leadership. The only difference between living a character-based life vs. being a character-based leader, it seems, is that to become a servant leader, one must emulate all the traits listed, not just aspire to them. In addition, care must be taken that these virtues not be hijacked by related “vices, which are imperceptibly interwoven with them,” like hospitality turning into greed, or prudence turning into malice (p. 178).
It is important to recognize that the values we desire in our leaders are the same we should aspire for in ourselves. We each have the power to create a more competent and character-driven life. Those who prefer to follow should not allow the title “leader” to release them from neither their ability nor (some might say) responsibility for living towards a good and meaningful life.