This misconception is based on the false belief that servant leaders do not exercise power. They do, but they exercise it differently than other leaders. The term Autocratic comes from two Greek terms, autos means self and kratos means power. It is a leader’s use of power to meet their own needs over those they lead. This is never an appropriate use of power in leadership.
If you have studied servant leadership in any depth, you have come across this issue of the problem of the name - Servant Leadership. The name seems contradictory, confusing and unappealing. After all, who wants to be someone’s servant? Is that a role I want to be known for?
If you get much into the academic literature on servant leadership it won’t take long to hear someone state emphatically that there is not much of a research base to support the concept of servant leadership. Some will then dismiss it out of hand and determine that the approach lacks credibility and scholarly support. Actually, the research base on servant leadership is actually quite strong and growing each year.
This misconception is based on the truth that servant leadership is founded on building healthy relationships toward a servant-minded, other-oriented culture and certainly this takes time. We all know that culture change is a long-term process. However, we also know that if culture change does not take place, the organization itself may not survive. Consider the story of Doug Conant taking the helm of the Campbell’s Soup Company in the early 2000’s.