Greenleaf Scholars

Since 2008, the Forum has been involved in an exciting project promoting servant-leadership.  The Greenleaf Scholars Program is a program of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and is designed to encourage and support the next generation of servant-leadership scholars.  The Greenleaf Center sponsors numerous programs and conferences to explore and further the concept of servant-leadership, and the Forum is proud to be a partner in the Greenleaf Scholars Program.

What is Servant-Leadership?

Servant-leadership was originally posited by Robert K. Greenleaf.  After retiring as the director of management research at AT&T, where he had been employed in various positions for nearly four decades, Greenleaf wrote an essay exploring a new philosophy, servant-leadership.  He offered it less as a theory and more as a philosophy of leadership in his seminal essay, The Servant as Leader (Greenleaf, [1970] 2008).  Greenleaf described the philosophy in one of the most well-known quotes in the field of servant-leadership, “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, [1970] 2008, p. 15).  Greenleaf elaborates with what is commonly known among servant-leadership scholars as the “best test,” perhaps the closest he ever came to providing an actual definition of servant-leadership:

The best test, and difficult to administer, is: do those served grow as persons; do they,
while being served become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely
themselves to become servants? And what is the effect on the least privileged in society;
will he benefit, or, at least, will he not be further deprived? (p. 15).

What is the Greenleaf Scholars Program?

The Greenleaf Scholars Program (GSP) is a fellowship program that selects and supports doctoral candidates and early career scholars in writing empirical research studies on servant-leadership.  The goals of the program are:

(1) to inspire a new generation of critical scholarship based on the concepts of servant leadership that were articulated by Robert K. Greenleaf;

(2) to support rigorous empirical studies that offer evidence of the impact of servant-leadership on the health and effectiveness of organizations and communities; and

(3) to build a nurturing community of academic researchers, practitioners, and students who study and teach servant-leadership.

The GSP names up to five Greenleaf Scholars each year; the Scholars are chosen by an international review committee made up of scholars from:


What is the Forum’s role in the GSP?

The GSP is administrated through the National Forum.  Forum graduate student research assistants prepare all program materials, support the work of the international review committee, and follow up with those selected as Scholars.  In addition, the Forum has been working with members of the international review committee in reviewing the extant research literature, publishing articles in the International Journal of Servant-Leadership.

It is our hope that the Greenleaf Scholars Program will reinvigorate the study of servant-leadership with rigorous empirical research, and that it will help support a community of young scholars studying this important concept.


Greenleaf, R. K. (1970/2008). The servant as leader. Westfield, IN: The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.