Servant Leadership Case Study

In-depth Summary of the Case background.

Underlying Issues

In 1929, St. Martha nuns opted to purchase an ancient medical facility located in Prairie town, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. In 1931, the St. Michael’s hospital was constructed in the town’s suburbs. The medical institution was run operated for 56 years by the nuns and later handed over to professional managers in 1985. The institutions were initially run on private contributions and aid but gradually became dependent upon the government’s revenue. In this case, the medical institution found out that it gradually surrendered its self-sufficiency as it became more dependent on funding from the government to facilitate its operations.  In this case, the institution developed an ongoing disagreement due to a Catholic-run medical facility in a region with numerous non-Catholics. The dispute is believed to be in existence for many years.

Regrettably, the disputes resulted in the demolition of the medical facility in 1977. Therefore, the facility opted to alter the name and was known as the St. Michael’s Health Centre. During the same duration, the Chinook Health Region was the critical source of finance for the facility and the government. The chinook health region later merged with the hospital in Alberta to give rise to the Alberta health services.  In 2009, a merging The St. Michael health Centre was considered the most awful employment facility, resulting in numerous staffing challenges. This is due to eminent resignation by the existing personnel and hesitation by the prospective employees since the institution gained a negative reputation.

Key Stakeholders

Every employee, including the nurses, doctors, and office personnel, were functioning in a dreadful and un-motivating atmosphere for a long duration. Numerous workers were in federations and fought for the rights of members of staff.  The employee engaged in strikes and strived to achieve fairness for every employee.  The media also played a significant role in the case study, as they were used to broadcasting numerous undesirable subjects, and failed to offer considerable airtime upon a turnaround. The hospital’s patients are also viewed as significant stakeholders.

How did Cowan’s predecessor lead and manage the organization? What were the outcomes of the predecessor’s leadership?

Cowan’s predecessor was an individual that operated the facility that founded on Catholic Church beliefs that mean solely focusing on ways of helping the vulnerable in the society. For instance, in a 2001 newspaper, the Lethbridge Herald vividly illustrated a lack of commitment to achieving the facility’s set objectives.  The newspaper article stated that the significant issue was attributed to a lack of regular bathing and failure to get assistance in feeding. This is one section that the predecessor was determined to adjust not only for the staff members but also for the patients. The result led to the LPN’s staffing that later resulted in the use of the staffing system by other medical facilities.  The other outcome attributed to the inadequate staffing, as illustrated, was the merging into St. Michael’s Health Centre, eventually forming the covenant Health.

The “initial progress” section describes Cowan’s auctions as cleaning up the past while refocusing on the future (vision). Review this section of the article and address the following:

Why is servant leadership so difficult in practice?

The aspect of servant leadership was initially initiated in the 1970s as the practice is considered leaders serving every citizen based on the needs. This may be difficult since a leader ought to prioritize the needs of the citizens compared to their own needs. For instance, Greenleaf states that Leo, a person that traveled with various individuals, accomplished servant leadership by prioritizing the group’s needs rather than the entire trip. However, the person’s failure to recognize his contributions until he left. This is considered a widespread occurrence amongst a majority of citizens as they fail to recognize leaders who prioritize others’ needs. This is as a result of not advertising the noble deeds attributed to their leadership.

Discuss the leadership traits and the communication tactics utilized by Cowan (refer to chapter 9) to motivate, collaborate, and innovate. Be sure to provide citations to the textbook when you use concepts from it in your discussion.

According to Vanderpyl (2012), the sole aim of leaders in connecting with people is to express visions, empower, and encourage individuals to grow. Leaders also establish morals and values that enhance a working relationship to achieve the set objectives. In Cowan’s case, he made use of the various attributes in his leadership roles. They include authorizing open discussions, sharing his ideas and aims, and communicating on the firm’s progress. Moreover, he incorporated honesty in addressing challenging circumstances faced by the staff members and the challenges attributed to the previous management. Successful interaction with staff members is frequently comprised of evasively simplistic characteristics such as queries and responding to other individuals.

Explain two of Cowan’s four strategies for implementing change and critique Cowan’s methods for those two strategies (process, relationship tactics, character, etc.). The four strategies are:

  1. Get in their face

The above strategy was employed by Cowan to comprehend the ultimate positive and negative aspects of the medical facility. Despite the abrasive methods, the technique was utilized by Cowan to solve an individual’s issues or complaints. To achieve the laid down objectives, Cowan would have a sit down with each individual over a cup of tea to find the source of the problem, solutions, and formulation of an alliance. According to Vanderpyl (2012), Cowan spends approximately 95% of his duration deliberating with individuals on what was required. The main aim of the method is learning about their welfares, their family unit, and their troubles. Moreover, Cowan was not known to have debates but instead had a sit-down and listened to the negative implications on the Saint Michael’s Hospital Centre. The strategy proved to be useful as it helped locate the source of the problems and provide better services through servant leadership.

  1. Offer to serve rather than be served.

Individuals who display aspects of servant leadership do not talk about themselves, but talk about other individuals and form partnerships to accomplish more exceptional outcomes. For instance, Cowan opted to engage the Chinook Health Region as an ally to form partnerships rather than being viewed as a competitor. In every meeting and interactions, Cowan frequently inquired about the various ways he can make the personnel’s life easier. In a specific instance, the CHR acquired a building intending to convert to an office and a healthcare area. The CHR managers initiated a media briefing to provide an explanation. On the other hand, Cowan overheard about the briefing and proposed to implement the programs and office spaces in the SMHC structure as an alternative. Cowan’s method, in this instance, is the essence of servant leadership.

  1. Weed the garden

Servant leadership necessitates a straight and open-minded technique of dealing with problematic personnel. Servant leaders comprehend that, occasionally, poorly performing personnel ought to be “weeded out” of the institution and prosper elsewhere. Cowan’s expression in his aspect was “weeding the garden.” Notwithstanding his approachable, helpful, and appealing method, he believed that if an employee crosses a particular path, he ceases to work for the corporation—this needed bravery and perseverance to face a union that represents a worker whose eligibility is questionable. Over time, the federations cultivated respect for his courage and reliability and initiated negotiations with SMHC instead of continually fighting.  Exorbitant negotiations started slowing in occurrence, and complex challenges were fixed over a cup of coffee instead of an argument.

  1. Give the credit away.

An assurance of Cowan’s form of leadership entailed continuously crediting individuals that surround him. He valued showing off about his direct accounts and the work performed. Cowan devised ways of crediting his opponents for their achievements. Several individuals took this acknowledgment devoid of apprehending that it was Cowan that gave it to them. This paradox of authority is a fascinating characteristic of servant management. According to Vanderpyl (2012), there has been a debate concerning who is powerful between an individual that opts to serve others or one that has no option but receives the service.  The giver is generally extra authoritative than the receiver. Although Cowan had restricted monetary capability, he resolved the authority inequity through service to the leaders. In a puzzling manner, Cowan mainly acquired authority over the CHR by serving.

Discuss the relational and financial implications and outcomes of Cowan’s servant leadership to this healthcare institution, its employees, and other stakeholders (e.g., unions).

When Cowan assumed office in 2001, SMHC was virtually insolvent.  The SMHC had an annual budget of $10 million, a significant shortfall, and no principal properties.  In 2008, SMHC had $43 million in principal properties, an annual budget of $30 million, and an annual surplus (Vanderpyl, 2012).  Cowan had transformed the future of the hospital.  Without him, the hospital would have most probably been liquidated.  Apart from capital, Cowan developed a new culture that was developing. Rather than personnel being detached and be afraid of work, he developed an environment that was conducive to work.  He turned a dysfunctional financing relationship with the CHR into flourishing cooperation.  Cowan stimulated a fresh model of care for the seniors, which later expanded in Western Canada.  The amenities have been commended and acknowledged by being awarded for excellent services.  He upgraded relations amongst all shareholders by listening to the grievances, and construction of two-way relations.  Cowan was mainly troubled by the relations and searched for ways that would benefit both parties. Moreover, he prioritized the stakeholders, which altered the hospitals’ mode of operations and fostered a new wave of thoughts.




Vanderpyl, T. (2012). Servant leadership: a case study of a Canadian health care innovator.        Virginia Beach, VA: Dovepress.

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