During the last two decades fundamental research on dilemma reconciliation in organizations demonstrated the key role of servant-leaders. Researchers and lecturers from different fields such as sustainable growth, talent diversity, management consultancy, anthropology, medical health care, corporate governance, and cross-cultural management found common ground in contributing to servant-leadership development. This cross-disciplinary collaboration and demands from business practice resulted in the launch of the Servant-Leadership Centre for Research and Education on 22 November 2010 with the official opening by R. Smit, Chair of the VU Executive Board.
At a meta level, we see the main reason for SERVUS’ existence: to meet the needs of future generations of leaders to be effective in diverse (business) environments, through the development of a robust new paradigm of servant- leadership in research and education.
Now, more than ever, a leader’s capacity to both direct the organization and its people, while at the same time work in their service, is being recognized as a vital capacity for creating a sustainable organization. The recent economic crisis again reminds us of its importance. For example, we have witnessed the selfish and bonus-oriented business behavior and the economic/societal consequences. Although much is currently being done in the practical world of Servant-Leadership (SL), the formal area of SL academic research and education is only in its starting phase. The creation of SERVUS, a centre for Servant-Leadership focusing on Research and Education aspires to connect and address several recognized needs and interests.
We have chosen the title SERVUS for two main reasons: First, ‘Servus’ is a salutation used in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe as a word of greeting (‘hello’) or parting (‘goodbye’), or both, depending on the region and context. The greeting evolved from the commoners’ greeting (said to lords), meaning ‘your humble servant, my noble Lord’. However in modern use, there is no subservience implied, rather it is a friendly greeting. Much like the Italian word ‘Ciao’, it can also be used as a toast, such as ‘cheers’.
In choosing this greeting, we wish to both greet and welcome you to the Centre. We also wish to symbolize the core of our work, which is to support and facilitate dialogue and research on the subject of servant-leadership.
Secondly, the word ‘serVUs’ also allows us to highlight our intention to contribute to the development of a new leadership paradigm in our society, which builds on the traditions and values of the Vrije Universiteit (VU), working in and through academia and the business world. Thereby, emphasizing the role the VU can play in good governance and serving society.