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Leadership styles can affect an organization's culture and even its ultimate success. Leaders who are inflexible may create an environment that is unable to adapt to changes in the marketplace, or may alienate their best employees so that there is a high rate of turnover. Leaders who lead by example and who have a high level of empathy for their employees may create corporate cultures that are able to adapt to change and that set the stage for long-term success. One approach to leadership has been the leader-as-servant style, an approach that was first put forth in the 1970s but which was slow to gain momentum during the financially challenging 1980s and high-growth 1990s. In 2003, however, a writer examined several companies that have adopted the leader-as-servant approach and found that these are successful companies where management has fostered an empowered workforce and where turnover is relatively low. This research considers how the lessons from these organizations could be applied to General Motors.

Hein examines three companies--Toro, Men's Wearhouse and TDIndustries--that have implemented servant leadership, and also examines the concept itself. Servant leadership is based on the idea that most human beings have a drive to serve others; this can lead to a drive to lead, as well, but the emphasis is on leadership as a tool of service rather than leadership as a goal by itself. The primary difference between servant leadership and other types of leadership, according to Hein, is that servantleaders seek to ensure that the high-priority needs of others--particularly their subordinates, but also the needs of the community at large, customers and other stakeholders--are met (Hein, 2003).

Executives at Men's Wearhouse are quick to point out that servant leadership is not only about self-sacrifice, although managers may work extra hours so that their subordinate


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