Thursday, November 26, 2015

The 4 Practices of Servant Leadership for School Leaders

The concept of Servant Leadership is something of a misunderstood but very desirable leadership style. Considered to be "soft leadership," Servant Leadership is rather challenging, as it requires fantastic levels of emotional vesting. Many people want to be, and believe themselves to be, a servant leader. If you desire to be a Servant Leader, it must start with having a deep understanding and belief that a Servant Leader is servant first, and focused upon genuine needs versus artificial wants of those within your influence.

I ascribe to the definition that servant leadership is the ability to influence and connect people to a greater purpose through relationships. And what better place for this to happen than in our schools? For learners of all ages, generous and meaningful learning experiences transform the ordinary person into extraordinary individuals. To grow your servant leadership capacity and influence in others, consider the four following Servant Leadership practices.

The Servant Leader Values & Develops People.  Trust and respect are generally viewed as linked values, and although generally earned, the servant leader practices them openly. Leadership excellence is caring about people, and leaders respect their people. It comes from leader's ability to first recognize each other's gifts, strengths and interests. While encouragement from a leader is appreciated, it is positive affirmation that people want- appreciation, acknowledgment and praise that recognize people for who they are and what they do.

The Servant Leader Displays Authenticity. Being open, while accepting others without judgement or need of approval, is a hallmark of being authentic. When we are in touch with our open nature, we exert an enormous attraction to others through vulnerability. This opens the door for mutually collaborative and empathetic relationships. Being present, having your whole self available to to others, as you influence authentically from values that are attuned to people's feelings transforms the relationship, so people move beyond what you do into why you do it.

The Servant Leader Builds Community. Community means different things to different people. To some it is a safe haven where survival is assured through cooperation. To others, it is a place of emotional support. Some see community as an intensive atmosphere for personal growth. For others, it is simply a place to pioneer their dreams. Whatever the reason, the servant leader recognizes that leadership is a relationship rooted in community, and embodies the groups most precious values and beliefs. Servant Leaders recognize that community building teaches people how to empty themselves, and how to really listen. It teaches how to make meaningful change through increased consciousness.

The Servant Leader Provides & Builds Leadership. As leaders pay attention, day-to-day experiences trigger promptings that might take followers somewhere important if they allow themselves to be led. Although required to be in the present, looking back and learning from the past is the first step to envisioning and casting the future story for those around them. Leaders model risk-taking, as they provide encouragement and shelter for venturing and risking the unpopular. While providing leadership insinuates followership of others, sharing leadership implies a collaborative effort. As leaders, we would be wise to adopt the term primus inter pares, which translated means first among equals.

These practices are transforming because they are based upon the human experience - they are engaging, they are relevant, and they are personal. As leaders, may we increase our desire to develop and drive our personal capacity to serve out of love - a love for those we serve and the purpose we are called to.