Tuesday, October 5, 2010

International Justice Mission and Servant Leadership

Gary Haugen graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, got a J.D. at University of Chicago, and was a successful Senior Trial Attorney with the Police Misconduct Task Force of the U.S. Department of Justice. Yet now, Haugen is the CEO of the International Justice Mission (IJM), a nonprofit, securing “justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression” (www.ijm.org). How did Haugen transition from a successful lawyer to starting a nonprofit? The answer, I believe, is because of his servant leadership style. His complete dedication to the mission of providing the highest-quality legal representation for the oppressed has provided legal assistance to fifteen thousand victims as of 2008 and has a budget of $22 million (The New Yorker).

Haugen first discovered a need for justice when he travelled to investigate genocide in Rwanda. When he returned, he needed to act, following the Biblical command to “seek justice, protect the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Greenleaf (1977) writes that “the great leader is seen as servant first.” Haugen did not start IJM to be a leader but because he wanted to serve those who are helpless. He characterizes an “affirmative builder of a better society” and took the hard path to stop living comfortably and instead start serving victims.

Haugen’s servant-heart is seen in him giving “power to” instead of having “power over” (Sendjaya and Sarros 2002). Instead of merely punishing criminals, he gives power back to their victims. Greenleaf asks if those served grow as a result. IJM not only provides legal representation for victims, but they provide victim aftercare. Victims are treated by doctors and social workers, who help them reenter into society and begin a job. I recently attended a benefit dinner for IJM and heard Haugen speak. He told the story of a girl in India who was rescued along with her family from working as slaves in a salt mine. She now wants to study to become a doctor because she desires to help others. Her family has since opened their own salt mine, which employs people for fair hours and wages and provides them with protective gear from the harsh salt. Service is seen as a continuous cycle, and servant leaders’ “chief motive is to serve others to be what they are capable of becoming” (Sendjaya and Sarros). This family in India is just one story of many showing IJM’s impact.

Lastly, Haugen’s leadership style resembles the model outlined by Smith, Montagno and Kyzmenko (2004). His desire to serve influences his initiatives of sharing leadership (90% of IJM’s international staff are nationals of the countries where they work) and displaying authenticity (Haugen is not afraid to cry when moved emotionally by heart-breaking stories) (The New Yorker). The organizational culture also resembles one centered on servant leadership. The organization is fundamentally Christian, and every day begins with thirty minutes of “prayful preparation.” Spirituality is inherent in servant leadership, and Haugen’s model is Jesus Christ, just as the Sendjaya and Sarros article expounded upon. Haugen is not afraid to enter the darkest of places and love those whom society has rejected, including prostitutes and modern-day slaves.

The following video shows IJM in action:


1. 1. Smith et. al’s model showed that servant leadership works best in a static environment. IJM operates in anything but a stable situation. Do you think that this makes IJM less successful than it could be?

2. 2. Sendjaya and Sarros talk about self-concept and how “the servant leader’s primary intent to serve may emanate from their self-concepts as an altruist, moral person.” Haugen was interested in justice all of his life and made the conscious decision to become a servant leader. Do you think you can change to become a servant leader or that you are born with this self-concept?



Power, S. The New Yorker. “The enforcer.(January 19, 2009). http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/01/19/090119fa_fact_power

Greenleaf, R. (1977). Servant Leadership.

Sendjaya, S. & Sarros, J. (2002). Servant leadership: Its origin, development, and application in organizations.

Smith, B., Montagno, R., & Kuzmenko, R. (2004). Transformational and servant leadership: Content and contextual comparisons.