The 1998 International Conferenceon Servant-LeadershipIndianapolis, IndianaAugust 7, 1998
TODAY, I WANT TO mix some corporate history and some personal philosophy, and try to impart some sense of how the idealistic vision of the servant as leader, and of the leader as servant, can have—and has had—an impact on the pragmatic, dog-eat-dog competitive world of American business. I'm going to use as my example the burgeoning mutual fund industry, next to the Internet, I suppose, the fastest-growing industry in the United States, and the Vanguard Group, its fastest-growing major firm.
What is of interest, I think, is not our mere success—a word so elusive in its connotations that I use it here with considerable reluctance—but the fact that, whatever we have achieved, it has been by marching to a different drummer. Our unique corporate structure has fostered our single focus on being the servant of our fund shareholders, our disciplined attitude toward the costs that they bear, and our conservative investment strategies and concepts (many of which we created de novo). In remarks that I hope will be especially relevant to all of you who are interested in servant-leadership, I plan to demonstrate how so many of those concepts have served us well—implicitly to be sure, but served us well nonetheless—in bringing us to where we stand today.
Hesitant as I may be to do so, I must establish my bona fides, as it were, by drawing a ...