Fethullah Gülen as a Servant Leader


The leadership literature often enumerates different leadership types and qualities.[1] This article aims to examining servant leadership using an empirical example with a coherent theoretical basis. It centres on Fethullah Gülen, the initiator of a worldwide Islamic social movement. Gülen is of Turkish origin but has lived in the United States since 1999 because of the repressive political atmosphere of Turkey and due to some personal health problems. Ali Bulac defines him as a harmonizing leader and an intellectual-scholar (ulama) focussing on social reforms and mentality change.[2] The movement inspired by Gülen emerged in the late 1960s as a local group around Izmir, an Aegean city in Turkey. In the mid-1980s, it led to the establishment of educational institutions and spread to other parts of Turkey. As it spread geographically, it transformed from a local group into a nationwide social movement. In the 1990s, the Gülen movement experienced its second transformation. It changed from a national social movement into a transnational one by opening institutions internationally and gathering followers from various nationalities.[3] It is interesting to analyse the role of his leadership in the transformation process and the extension of his community. This article attempts to give an answer on the following question: which characteristics and dynamics, behind Fethullah Gülen leadership style, play a part in the spread and success of his movement? An exhaustive analysis of his leadership can give new insights into accomplished leadership approaches. Furthermore, this analysis can help to understand Gülen’s philosophical and theological anthropology and his views on the human condition. (tag: gulen movement, hizmet movement)

by Dr. Ali Ünsal