Book Summary The Servant - James Hunter, PDF

The Servant - James C. Hunter

Learn here the principles of the servant leadership and become a true leader!

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Being a leader is not an easy task, is it? This position requires a lot of commitment, competence, and skills to relate to others.

This summary of the book "the Servant" will show you the leadership roles and how to be good and efficient in this field.

Also, it will explain how the context of the traditional leader is falling into disuse. A true leader is not the one who is known to be a dictator of orders anymore. This person needs to be someone who can lead a team to the task, identifying the needs of each member, being able to inspire and transform people positively.

Keep reading this summary and discover how to master this art!

The book "The Servant"

"The Servant" (1998), is an original book by James C. Hunter, that contains 143 pages distributed in seven chapters.

The story takes place in a monastery of the order of St. Benedict. The there students are instructed by a large and successful executive, named Leonard Hoffman. He abandoned everything for the search of a new meaning in his life.

In this way, the book tells the simple story of John Daily desperately seeking to reverse his frustrated situation as husband, father and coach.

In this book, the author tells, through a narrative and Christian theme, the fundamental principles, values and qualities to improve the capacity to lead, to live in harmony and to motivate others, focused on servant leadership.

Who is James C. Hunter?

James C. Hunter is the lead consultant at JD Associates, an American company that works in the consulting field in Human Resources and Leadership Training.

Having more than 20 years of experience, besides consulting, the author is also a lecturer and instructor of functional leadership, aiming the development of this characteristic.

James' books are used in a variety of Master of Business Administration (MBAs) and have also been sold in several parts of the world, accumulating more than 5 million copies sold.

Who should read this book?

Because of its fictional story, the book can be read and appreciated by many people who want to know more about the essence of leadership.

However, it brings, in its narrative, very important principles, concepts and teachings, fundamental to a current market leader.

In this way, the book can be indicated primarily for professionals who seek to learn and develop leadership skills through will, love and the sense of personal growth.

Which are the main ideas of the book "The Servant"?

  • What are the principles, values and fundamental qualities of a leader;
  • How to coexist in harmony with other people;
  • The servant leadership, motivation through service;
  • Presentation of the old versus new paradigms of leadership;
  • The true purpose of a leader;
  • Presentation of agape love and its influence in leadership.
  • How to influence teams.

In this summary, we'll go through the main teachings to absorb the essence of leadership. Check it out!

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[Book Summary] The Servant - James C. Hunter


The first concept raised in the book is leadership. It's presented during the story, where students are faced with the following challenge: defining the word Leadership.

According to the book, it's the ability to influence people in order to achieve the goals identified as good for all.

Leadership is described as a skill, and therefore it can be developed. However, it also raises the following question: How to influence people?

To do this, you need to know how to engage with the people who work in a given action, and then be able to draw from them the so-called voluntary gifts such as creativity, trust, and excellence.

Thus, the author portrays in his work that the concept of the word influence in this situation, is basic and necessary to differentiate Authority from Power.

Based on Weber's concepts, Hunter defines these two words in his story, such as, power being the way to force someone to do what you want. Then, authority is the ability of making someone do an action based on goodwill and influence.

In other words, power is the freedom a person has to command someone and authority is a skill that is achieved.

An example given in the book, that can be observed in some companies, is the bosses who have the power to rule on their employees, but have no authority over them.

In addition, there are opposing situations, where people have great influence and authority, but do not hold a position of power.

To have authority, a person must have the following behaviors:

  • Honesty;
  • Good example;
  • Be Careful;
  • Know to listen;
  • Be trustful;
  • Know to respect;
  • Encourage people;
  • Be positive;
  • Like to relate.

The book further portrays that all of the skills above are behaviors and those are choices of a person.

It's also shown that a leader should not only look at technical skills, but also personal skills.

In this scenario, relationships are the basis for people to cooperate and help one another, and since there is no business without people, it is essential to build strong and healthy relationships.

The Old Paradigm

The book "The Servant" explores the question about how to listen well.

A leader needs to know how to listen. It also means not interrupting people in the middle of a sentence.

According to the story, when you interrupt someone's speech, you aren't paying attention to it. And maybe don't value what the broadcaster has to say.

This sends a disrespectful and arrogant message to the employees of a company, that's why a true leader can never behave like this.


James explains the importance of appropriate behaviors for a leader, through paradigms, model examples, patterns.

Paradigms are valuable but at the same time they are dangerous. That is, we need to accept changes in order to develop, but sometimes holding old paradigms leaves us trapped in inefficient ways of acting.

There is within us all a feeling of resistance to change as we are subject to leave our comfort zone.

But this action is fundamental to both a person and an organization, because nothing remains the same in our lives.

Old Paradigm X New Paradigm

New Paradigm

The new paradigm can be observed from a current perspective as an inverted pyramid, where customers are the top priority.

The idea behind this model is that each of the hierarchical levels is a client of the level above, in which the role of a leader is to serve.

In this way, the pyramid aims to meet the needs of each of the parties, that is, the entity below must serve the above to complete its goal, satisfying the client.

Satisfying the client!

SOURCE: Adaptation of the New Paradigm presented by the author on page 53 of the book.

The Model

Connecting to what was already told, to achieve this goal is necessary to have authority, what takes to serve, sacrifice, trust and respect. Looking deeper, service and sacrifice are the most difficult ones, right?

Well, according to James C. Hunter, not for those who love what they do. This feeling is important because it means loyalty, teamwork, respect for dignity and individuality. That's why, love can be seen as the strength for any organization.

But how to build love? The author explains in his story that love is grounded upon the will to do something and also that the will can be seen as a mathematical equation:


Therefore, when our actions are aligned with our intentions, we get the will and thus we become coherent and harmonious leaders in order to follow our objectives.

The will is the basis of true leadership.

The Verb

The author begins chapter four with the character John Daily intrigued by the ability of the tutor, Simeon. He facilitated the speech and still managed to get the people around him to express their ideas and thoughts in a natural way.

In this way, Daily felt valued and important, since Simeon paid attention to each of his words, always expressing his opinion, but with deep respect, being very kind.

That shows how the tutor loved his students. The title of chapter four portrays the verb to love, more precisely the definition of love by Christianity, agape.

The author states in the narrative that leadership and agape love are synonyms, and shows a list containing each of the main characteristics of a leader:

  • Patience: a virtue of the human being, shown through emotional self-control, without losing concentration while exposed to unpleasant situations;
  • Goodness: those who have good intentions and always give proper attention, appreciate someone's ideas and encourage them positively;
  • Humility: a leader must be authentic and not show arrogance or pride;
  • Respect: give importance to other people and their opinions by appreciating and considering their ideas;
  • Self-denial: meeting the needs of other people, ignoring self-interests;
  • Forgiveness: do not show resentment by deceiving yourself;
  • Honesty: be free from deceit and lies;
  • Commitment: work on the choices that maintain your authority;

Therefore, a leader needs to put aside his interests, wants and needs, seeking the greater good for others.

The Environment

Here James says that a leader must be able to provide an adequate and convenient work environment, favorable to the fulfillment of tasks, as well as the individual growth of each employee.

One example stated in the book "The Servant" is the question of behavioral habits and their normalization. It is ideal for a collaborative medium to have rules of conduct, but we can not change people, they have to change for themselves.

The role of a leader is also to warn, but in a personal way, allowing the people themselves to perceive the need for change, motivating them.

And also to praise them, being positive and giving value to their work.

The Choice

Leadership begins with the choice to take responsibility and to devote our lives to do good actions associated with good intentions. In this way, we create the basis, that is, the necessary will for the servant leadership.

In this chapter James C. Hunter highlights that responsibilities must fit for action and purpose. We should not assume more than is necessary, that is, we can not be neurotic, but also not assume less than what is necessary, being irresponsible.

Therefore, the leader who decides by authority and influence must make the right choices but also make sacrifices, and for this, it takes a lot of discipline to cover all the responsibilities.

The Reward

The last chapter of the book brings the reflection of the servant leadership and the benefits of leading with authority.

This way of acting is much more satisfying because it brings us the sense of inner improvement and also the conviction that we are doing what is really right.

The author says, in this way, we connect ourselves to the deepest principles of life while at the same time we achieve our goals more efficiently, with respect and trust on the people around us.

Books about management

In their search, the authors of the book "Built to Last", Jym Collins and Jerry Porras discovered that most of the visionary companies didn't start with a revolutionary idea. In fact, they started slow and by the time mastered the market.

Ed Catmull, author of the book "Creativity, Inc", advises: always give priority to people instead of the ideas, because creative people develop great ideas, but good ideas are destroyed by a bad time.

In the book "The Leadership Pipeline", the authors explain which are the 7 phases of leadership, and the 6 transitions between them, that a leader should go through to become an excellent manager.

Okay, but how can I apply this to my life?

The lessons taught in "The Servant" are very important for personal growth, not just to leaders but to everyone.

The story brings many definitions and concepts that help us to be better people through the creation of good relationships based on trust, respect and love for others.

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Book 'The Servant'