Spears has been affiliated in multiple ways with Gonzaga University and its many leadership programs for the past three years, teaching undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students. He has illumined the life and work of Robert K. Greenleaf, the founder of servant-leadership, by publishing hundreds of articles, essays, newsletters, books and other publications on servant-leadership worldwide. Spears is president and CEO of the Indianapolis-based Larry C. Spears Center for Servant-Leadership, Inc., founded in 2008. He served for 17 years (1990-2007) as president and CEO of the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership. Greenleaf coined the phrase “servant leadership” in “The Servant as Leader,” a 1970 essay he published.
Many of the top 20 organizations in Fortune Magazine’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work for are purposefully servant-led companies, including Starbucks, Southwest Air, and TDIndustries, said Professor Shann Ferch, chair of Gonzaga’s Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies. “Perhaps most importantly, Larry’s understanding of the interior of the leader, listening, and foresight, has become foundational to personal and organizational discernment in servant-leadership,” Ferch said.
The Servant Leadership Scholar designation is intended to honor Spears’ international academic contributions, recognize Gonzaga’s connection to him, and ensure Gonzaga students will have access to the preeminent thought leader in servant leadership for years to come. Larry will continue to reside in Indianapolis, while making more frequent visits to Spokane. Much of his new work will continue to be done as a joint collaboration between The Spears Center for Servant-Leadership and Gonzaga University.
“We are so honored to have Larry Spears teaching in our leadership programs at Gonzaga, and newly appointed as the Servant Leadership Scholar for Gonzaga University in the School of Professional Studies. His years of collaboration with the Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies have culminated in this appointment and we could not be more pleased,” Ferch said. “Larry has also given readers, writers, and practitioners a profound depth of wisdom, practical application, and soulful understanding on a leadership way of life that has begun to unseat the traditional command and control leadership methodologies and in turn evoke in society the capacity for self-transcendence and individual and collective responsibility across all spectrums of human endeavor.”
During the past 20 years, Spears has helped shape global understanding and awareness of servant-leadership. His conception of the 10 characteristics of servant-leadership, gleaned from his in-depth study of Greenleaf's works, has become a significant and enduring contribution to the field worldwide.
“His past years leading the Greenleaf Center and his current role as president of The Spears Center for Servant-Leadership have propelled a healthy and robust groundswell of servant-leadership in the United States and abroad,” Ferch said. “A direct reflection of this can be seen in significant quantitative and qualitative research on servant-leadership, under way in Europe, Australia, North and South America, and Asia.”
Spears’ more than 10 books on servant-leadership, including the best-seller Insights on Leadership, continue to reach a wide international audience. His most recent essays include “Myers-Briggs and Servant-Leadership,” and “Seekers Anonymous.”
“Over the past decade I have enjoyed an expanding relationship with Gonzaga University, and with its outstanding faculty, students, staff, and alumni,” Spears said. “My experiences with Gonzaga have been both fruitful and fun. In my view, Gonzaga University is a remarkable living laboratory of servant-leadership. It has developed a global and growing reputation as a distinctive leader in servant-leadership through its sponsoring of The International Journal of Servant-Leadership, throughits offering of graduate and undergraduate courses in servant-leadership, and in other ways. The spirit of servant-leadership is easy to see in its mission, and in its people. I am deeply grateful and honored by this appointment; and, I look forward to deepening my engagement with the Gonzaga community in the coming years, through my new role as Servant-Leadership Scholar.”
The Gonzaga University School of Professional Studies’ Servant-Leadership Scholar, among other criteria, reflects an enduring legacy of encouraging others to become servant leaders; benefits (or at least does not further deprive) the least privileged of society; is a luminous example of cura personalis , a Latin phrase that means “care for the whole person”; and has established an enduring legacy of thoughtful engagement of the mind, heart, and spirit to help heal the mind, heart, and spirit of the world. The Scholar also will conduct engagements to enhance and expand the sharing of servant-leadership knowledge and research. Examples of forums that might be developed include, but are not limited to the following: The Robert K. Greenleaf Lectureship Series, the Servant Leadership Writing and Development Series, the Servant Leadership Cura Personalis Colloquium; and senior advisory editorship of The International Journal of Servant Leadership , a role Larry Spears has held since the inception of the prestigious journal seven years ago.
Spears has been interviewed by dozens of major daily newspapers, magazines and other publications nationwide. A 2004 TV interview of Spears by Stone Philips on NBC’s “Dateline” helped introduce servant-leadership and Greenleaf to 10 million viewers. He created and edited various books on servant-leadership and has contributed to many others. He also served as the series editor of the Servant-Leadership Essay Series, and is senior advisory editor for The International Journal of Servant Leadership (2005-Present). Since 1990, Spears has given more than 200 keynote speeches on servant-leadership on four continents, a dozen countries, and 40 states. He knew Robert Greenleaf and first encountered Greenleaf’s writings on servant-leadership in the early 1980s while working with the Quaker magazine, Friends Journal. After Greenleaf died in 1990, Spears examined Greenleaf’s personal papers and discovered dozens of previously unpublished essays written by Greenleaf over a 50-year period. Many of these essays were later collected and published in 1996 in two volumes: On Becoming a Servant-Leader and Seeker and Servant.