#SH302: The 4 Ps of Service Leadership

by | Mar 4, 2018 | 36 comments

11 min read

Ask Yourself

How would those you lead define your leadership style? Outside of potentially labeling you as good or bad, would they say you excel in communication and relationships, would they say that you are autocratic or authoritative, maybe they would they say that you’re primarily interested in setting goals and meeting the organization’s established targets without regard for people? Ask yourself: do you serve others so that they can do the work, do you empower them, or do you take control and manage people closely? It’s important to know your style, your preferences, and your shortcomings.

Servant Leadership

At TheSchoolHouse302, a fundamental aspect of our leadership paradigm is servant leadership. As Greenleaf, the godfather of servant leadership, once said, “the servant leader is servant first…the natural feeling that one wants to serve [others]” (1977). We subscribe to it, work to model it, and it underpins all of our materials, resources, models, and presentations. But, we draw a unique distinction between servant leadership and service leadership.

Servant leadership is about empowering others, not using power over them. This style flips the-leader-at-the-top mentality upside-down so that serving others is at the heart of leading to fulfill the mission of the organization–enabling those who the leader serves to best fulfill their role and to maximize their potential. Although the phrase servant leader was coined in the 70s, leaders possessing this mentality and style can be found in any field throughout the centuries.

Service Leadership

But, we do make a major distinction between servant and service leadership. As we define it, service leadership differs from servant leadership in that service leaders are actually serving the needs of others by providing a service that would not otherwise be available. Service is then defined as helping or doing work for someone, or as one of the three U.S. Air Force’s core values states, “Service Before Self…An Airman’s professional duties take precedence over personal desires.” Service leaders are teachers, public servants, philanthropists, volunteers, and anyone who is in a position to fill a void for someone that they can’t otherwise fill for themselves. The best service leaders are by nature servant leaders, but not all servant leaders have to be providing a service as a public good.

Doing Both

Let’s take, for example, Scott Kammerer, who we interviewed for our #onethingseries leadership podcast. Listen here if you missed it. Scott is both a servant and a service leader. As an entrepreneur and a restaurant owner, he embraces the spirit and the attitude of a servant leader and uses his influence and opportunity to be a service leader as well. He’s the President of SoDel Concepts and the founder of SoDel Cares. So here’s how we draw our distinction. Not all restaurant owners are servant leaders. A restaurant owner could easily be an authoritative micromanager, who uses pressure without support, and even shaming to advance his goals. The opposite is the servant leader, clearly Kammerer’s philosophy, who leads people by identifying their strengths, lifting them to new heights, and empowering them to accomplish great things. In fact, Scott talks about getting out of the way so that people can exercise their greatest strengths, living by the vision of the company. That’s true servant leadership.

But, Scott doesn’t also have to be a service leader. He’s the founder of SoDel Cares, which is a charity organization that gives money to assist children, at risk youth and adults, and the elderly. Their mission is “to contribute in a positive way to the communities where we do business.” SoDel Cares is a service leadership project that makes Scott not only a servant leader but also a service leader.

Lastly, we imagine that someone could be a service leader but not a servant leader, although very unlikely. We doubt that too many dedicated service professionals have an authoritative approach, assisting with a need in the community but doing so in a dictatorial way. It’s possible, but not probable. In any event, we believe that leaders should “serve first” as Greenleaf put it, and in growing your service leadership mindset, we have four areas that need attention to be a true service leader in your organization.

TheSchoolHouse302 Four Ps of Service Leadership

With that said, this month we’re focused on service leadership, and our 4 Ps are a model to help your organization with a stronger service-oriented approach to leading better and growing faster.

#1 — People First.

Our philosophy is that we care about people first. ~Mark Zuckerberg

Angie Morgan, leadership expert and former officer in the United States Marine Corps, details in the book Spark an incredible story of where she was put first while in The Basic School, learning to be an Officer of Marines. Essentially, after the death of a loved one, her captain went above and beyond to ensure that every little detail was covered and taken care of for Angie, all prior to breaking the devastating news to her, which is custom for a captain to do. She explains that at that moment she learned “…to be a leader you can be tough, you can be aggressive, you can have demanding standards–but if you can’t be compassionate, empathetic, and caring, you’re never going to build a team of people who feel valued and connected.” Service-based leaders put their organization and their people ahead of themselves. They embrace the notion that to truly reach for and exact the vision of the company and live out the core beliefs, the people must feel valued and appreciated through the actions of the leader.

Challenge Question: How are you putting people’s needs above your own?

#2 — Clear Priorities.

The overwhelming reality is: we live in a world where almost everything is worthless and very few things are exceptionally valuable. ~ Greg McKeown

Ray Wang is the CEO of Constellation Research and the author of Disrupting Digital Business. He calls for companies to flip their thinking about priorities to include “strategic differentiation.” He tells HBR readers that priorities can “create game changing transformation” when we adopt social enterprises. Wang doesn’t say these “social enterprises” have to be service-oriented projects, but in a service-based leadership model, we believe that one of the differentiated priorities should be “giving.” Making contributions outside of your traditional priorities will improve the spirit of the organization and the passion that people have for doing the work. Simple examples include philanthropic endeavors to raise funds for charity. More sophisticated approaches are to organize a group for a Saturday soup kitchen volunteer experience or even giving people time off (trading work time) for volunteer efforts that are pre-determined by the organization. In any case, differentiating priorities to include something that is philanthropic and outside the traditional scope of work will instill a positive attitude and sense of pride that are also part of this model for service leadership and certainly “exceptionally valuable” to the lives of people.

Challenge Question: What is your organization doing to give back to the community?

#3 — Positive Attitude.

Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. ~Lyndon B. Johnson

Having a positive attitude is a fundamental way to approach life to confirm that you are mentally available to “see” opportunities. As a leader, it is critical to move forward each day with a positive mentality. Please don’t mistake having a positive attitude for a pollyanna, blind-to-reality, view on life. As Tony Robbins says, you can’t stand in a garden and tell yourself, “no weeds, no weeds, no weeds” and expect that to prevent weeds from growing. Rather, our view of the power of positivity rests on the fact that much of our interpretation of our surroundings–the events we attend and the situations that arise in our lives–are a result of our perception. The key is being guided by positivity rather than negativity–the idea that each moment in life has the potential for greatness, not the opposite. This approach has two primary benefits: One, it requires you to be mindful of all the great things going on and not just the issues that often plague us. Two, it keeps in check how we should react to situations. As Dr. Dennis Waitley writes in The Psychology of Winning, “…it makes little difference what is actually happening, it’s how you, personally, take it that really counts” (1979). We realize that the daily grind makes this approach challenging. But as Viktor Frankl, Nazi camp survivor, reminds us: one of the last of all human freedoms is to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances (2006). The power is in the control we have over both our attitude and our effort.

Challenge Question: What steps can you take to be sure that you and others in your organization view experiences through a positive lens?

#4 — Beneficial Pride.

Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need. ~ Khalil Gibran

Sometimes pride is less than beneficial. In fact, it can tear us apart, create dissent, and lead to arrogance, anger, and narcissism. But, pride can be beneficial as well. Psychology professor David DeSteno says that “while researchers long thought that all emotions inhibit self-control because they tip the mind toward valuing immediate pleasure, newer research suggests that certain emotions, including pride, do just the opposite: they nudge the mind to be more patient and future-oriented than it would otherwise be” (2016). DeSteno’s research is not specific to service leadership, but it does show that when people are proud, in the same way that when people have gratitude and compassion, they tend to see value in what the future holds. This is an important aspect of service work because it means that instilling pride in people helps them to value the efforts they’re making for others toward a better future for all of us. To evoke pride in your team, DeSteno says, leaders need to give specific praise about a measurable task. When we praise people effectively, they feel the pride needed to continue the work, persisting longer than they would without the praise.

Challenge Question: Do your people feel proud about the work they’re doing and are they future-driven about the value they add to your community?

The Result 

Service leadership is the result of having a heart for and a desire to do for others what they might not otherwise be able to do for themselves. It creates a greater sense of community, and it works for the betterment of our society as a whole. The greatest service is the giving of oneself to realize a world that we believe in and that we work toward. Service leaders support, develop, and build people through The 4 Ps of Service Leadership. 

That’s our #SH302 model for Service Leadership. When you put people first, have clear priorities, work with a consistently positive attitude, and generate beneficial pride, you’re a service leader.  If you want stronger service or servant leaders in your organization, don’t hesitate to contact us, we can help.

Let us know what you think of this #SH302 post with a like, follow, or comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Joe & T.J.

Daschler, J. (1977). Service vs. servant: Attitude makes the difference. Golf Business.

DeSteno, D. (2016). The connection between pride and persistence. Harvard Business Review.

Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man’s search for meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.

Greenleaf, R. (1977). The servant as leader. Indianapolis, IN: Robert K. Greenleaf Center.

It’s our promise to protect. (n.d.). Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://www.airforce.com/mission/vision

Morgan, A., Lynch, C., Lynch, S., & Smith, F. (2018). Spark: How to lead yourself and others to greater success. New York: First Mariner Books.

Morgan, A. & Lynch, C. (2017). How the U.S. Marines encourage service-based leadership. Harvard Business Review.

Waitley, D,. (1979). The psychology of winning: Ten qualities of a total winner. New York: The Penguin Group.

Wang, R. (2015). To jumpstart growth, flip the company’s priorities. Harvard Business Review.


  1. Ray Theilacker

    This comes conceptually very close to the ethical/philosophical core of the Teachers Institute organizational model, which, as you know, has earned my greatest admiration. This is very well articulated, yet SO difficult to realize in the familiar hierarchical structures. It requires experience that validates the claims, AND genuine affection/respect/faith in people. I do admire the words!

  2. Holly Briel

    As a first time administrator I would say that I have taken on more of a servant leadership role. I like being able to help others and empower them at the same time. I have asked teachers what they want to see during upcoming professional development days and inservice days. I have asked the teachers I am supervising what their favorite instructional strategies are so that I can share them with others. I have intervened when teachers have come to me with a discipline issue regarding a student whose parent is not supportive.

    I feel like my best leadership trait so far has been: communication (my door is literally and figuratively always open). I always welcome teachers to come to my office to discuss the good, the bad, and anything else they deem important. I also return emails and phone calls ASAP.

    In regards to the 4 Ps: I have put people first…I make a priority (to-do) list every day. I stay positive despite how disgruntled a teacher may be. And…I feel very proud to be a part of this staff and feel like I AM making a difference. 🙂

    • Marisa Hockman

      What an awesome feeling, Holly, to get the sense that you are making a difference in your daily role! It really makes going to work each day a pleasure!

    • Shani Benson

      I love your approach and feel like we have that in common. Finding ways to support teachers in all they do is how I approach my day to day. One thing that was said in the very first class was “It’s your job to take care of teachers so teachers can take care of the students.” That made so much sense to me and really validated my approach for me. Keep doing what you do to make a difference every day!

    • Ayanna Johnson

      I love that you literally keep your door open for teachers. It is so important for morale that teachers feel that they are supported by administration. Listening is key. I’m sure you staff appreciates your leadership and they are blessed to have you in their corner.

  3. Marisa Hockman

    I found this article to be very interesting – and resonate so deeply with the goals I am setting for myself as a new administrator.

    Of the 4 Ps, the two that I found most salient were “People First” and “Positive Attitude.” I think it is hugely important, in my role, that I remember to value and work to bolster and strengthen my staff members as individuals and as professionals first. We all have strengths surrounding and approaches to achieving our shared goal of serving our students. My strengths and approaches may look very different than someone else’s. That said, mine are not better; they are different. I think it is always important to look for ways to support our teachers as professionals and offer our help in fostering growth.

    Secondly, having a positive attitude – both toward students and our staff – is critical. I want my school to be one that both students and staff are happy to come to each day. I want both students and staff to feel valued and validated when they see me. I can’t encourage those feelings without positivity and genuine interest. It is my goal, each day, to be a positive and supportive influence in the lives of all those with whom I come into contact with in my school building.

    In summation – I appreciate these 4Ps…so much so that the diagram has made it only my “wall of affirmation and reminders” in my office – directly in my line of sight each day!

    • Kerri Carr

      What a great idea to put the graphic of the 4Ps in your office. I bet it help reminds you of why you are doing this when you have tough days. It can be a positive reminder about the impact that you can have with everyone that you come into contact with- staff, students, and families.

    • L'Tanya Cain

      Marisa, I believe my educational philosophy is shared with yours in reading your response to the article. I strongly agree with all that you stated and I thank you for giving me a great idea to post the 4P’s on my wall as a daily reminder. I find “People First” and “Positive Attitude” to be the strongest of the 4. As educational leaders in our buildings, we have to be cognizant of our staff and maintain a positive attitude no matter what, as we model for our teachers.

  4. Michael J Thompson

    The 4 Ps of Service Leadership are a great framework or Mindset to follow as a new administrator. I feel blessed to be in a building where the staff is already very positive and passionate about their service. This environment makes it easy for me as a leader to want to serve my staff in the most beneficial way. To be a great leader in public education I feel it is almost essential to put people first, have clear priorities, and a display positive attitude. The pride as a leader and in my staff will come with the schools overall success and the type of environment we create as a school community.

  5. Drew

    Good point about servant leadership. Empowering others is crucial in developing future leaders. As a leader, you must always look for ways to build capacity with your staff. This is where telling versus coaching comes into play when dealing with individuals or groups. I enjoyed reading about the 4 P’s and will do my best to incorporate them daily. Whether it is a parent, student, or teacher, putting people first is vital to sustaining a positive school climate.

  6. James McDowell

    I agree with the first section of the blog (Ask Yourself). It’s very important to reflect on one’s practice to determine areas of growth regardless of profession. I like the term servant leadership. Empowering others leads to greater mission and vision buy-in and the development of future leaders. Scott Kammerer is a great example of one who embraces servant and service leadership. The mission of SoDel Cares checks all of the boxes we discussed at our first meeting. Simply put, all leaders must first learn to follow.
    People are the driving force of any organization. As I reflect on the challenge question from the People First section, I think about communication. Am I communicating clearly and consistently with my staff? Do I respond in a timely manner? Do I listen to the ideas and opinions of all stakeholders? The Clear Priorities section reminds me of the conversations we had during the first session related to mission and vision. All of the decisions we make are for the best of our students which in turn is the best for the community. We must continue to build partnerships with community members and groups. We should invite community members in to our school and attend community events as much as possible. Students should be partners in the events as well. Positivity is an important characteristic of an effective leader. Positivity is contagious and spreads to others when exhibited by leadership. We want all of our students and staff to have a positive attitude and growth mindset. At our school, we start all of our meetings (staff meetings, PLCs, clubs/organization) with positive information/news. It’s important that staff know they are appreciated and that their hard work and dedication is not going unnoticed. This relates to the Beneficial Pride section as well. If stakeholders are treated with respect and can see their results, they will feel proud of their work and continue to contribute to the community.

  7. Travis Bower

    I do my best to subscribe to the 4 P’s of leadership and am a firm believer of putting people first in our roles. We’re in the business of educating students, and they should be the people we put first in any decision we make. As many leaders do, I’ve worked hard to get to where I am today, and I did so by always putting kids first, not just the students in my building, but more often than not, my district. I’m a firm believer that we should be able to level the playing field by providing as many opportunities for our students across all our schools, and not limit it to one building. I have implemented several programs at my school and then used them as models across my districts to ensure that all students can enjoy them.

    The other P that I really believe in is to always be positive, and to spread that to others. We all have our days where stress keeps building up, and people are quick to be negative about them, but I do my best to be positive and to spread it to others. If the leader of a building is negative, regardless of the situation, it spreads like wildfire. Having a constant positive approach keeps everyone working towards solutions and doing what they can to make those situations into a learning situation. Thankfully, I have a core group of people that always help to keep me positive in my personal life and professional life (thanks Kathy!) and together we have a calm demeanor that spreads through our team regardless of the situation.

    The other point that resonated with me was the quote “to be a leader you can be tough, you can be aggressive, you can have demanding standards–but if you can’t be compassionate, empathetic, and caring, you’re never going to build a team of people who feel valued and connected.” It really defines who we are and can be as leaders. If we have high standards, but still are compassionate and able to show our teams that we’re human, and that we value them, it will go a long way. Far too often, we are given mandates and dictates calendars, framework and other programs that we as principals have little say in. Sometimes, as things happen, we need to put that aside and go back to putting people first, not policy. After all, there are only four P’s, not five.

  8. Kathy

    Great article. I immediately connected with the ‘Service before Self’ piece; my husband was a member of the Air Force for many years and we as a family have lived by that credo. That capacity to serve is easily connected to what we do at our site each and every day. I try to make sure my staff knows that I am here to support the good things they are doing at my site. Whether it is the teachers or support staff, I let them know that family comes first, above all else. If the need arises for them to attend to a situation or to the needs of a member of their family they should do so without worrying they will be scrutinized for making that choice.
    Additionally, when called upon to address a concern they might have with a student, or if a student needs to see me about something they are concerned about, they know I have an open door and am available at all times.
    In service to our local community we are partnering with a local industry to collect canned goods for the upcoming holiday. Perhaps more importantly we provide our local community with free-to-the-public performances and activities. We will be hosting a free dance performance at our site in two weeks.
    Viewing our experiences through a positive lens starts with me. As a school leader I need to prescribe and exhibit a positive and ‘growth’ mindset, by sharing affirmations with others even at times when circumstances prevent us from achieving our goals, we keep moving forward toward the goals.

    • Sue Jackson


      I couldn’t agree more about having a positive and growth mindset. It is always important to learn from the choices and decision we make and use them to propel us forward. I think a big part of leadership is how you frame your mindset and the messages you convey to others. Being able to turn a negative into a positive or a disappointment into a learning opportunity is what makes us all better people and that is what it is all about. We are all working towards the common goal of building tomorrow’s future!

  9. Christy Kerr

    I definitely feel that in my role as a first year principal that I am more of a servant leader. This goes hand in hand with one of my Ps- positive. I see my role this year, as I get to know my staff and the climate of the school, as a cheerleader for the teacher- serving alongside in anyway possible, building them up and finding the positive in a job field that can be extremely challenging. I have always been a positive person, and try desperately to maintain this attitude, even when surrounded by less than positive individuals. Keeping our students at the focus helps me to maintain this perspective. My other P is definitely people first. Being compassionate and empathetic to build trust and a sense of family is a high priority to me- both with my staff and my students.

  10. Sue Jackson

    I am coming up on 1 year in my new role as an administrator. The 4 Ps of Service Leadership resonated with me as I continue to get to know new staff and the new families that joined our learning community this year. I have always strived to serve other in any capacity I can. I feel that is what drives many people towards the field of education. On a daily basis I see myself going between servant leadership and service leadership depending on the task at hand. My leadership style comes from Empowering others. As I empower others, whether that be adults through leadership opportunities within my building or students within a classroom, helping others to grow in their greatness is what makes each day better than the one before. The power of positivity is especially fitting this time of year as we settle into our routines and have learned the ins and outs of staff and students. We get into the time of year when the newness has worn off and I find myself trying to find new ways to encourage staff and students to remain positive. Being guided by positivity is what allows us to continue to encourage our students and staff to push past the stress and familiarity and set new goals and push new boundaries. Having a positive attitude is certainly contagious!

    • Kerri Carr

      Congratulations on almost having a year under your belt. I agree that a positive attitude can be contagious. Positivity can help in all areas of communication and dealing with staff, students, and families.

  11. Kerri Carr

    I enjoyed reading about the 4 Ps of Leadership. I feel that I am more of a servant leader. I have tried over the last 2 months to really get to know my staff and students in order to be able to put them first. Building relationships and trust has been a top priority for me. I am compassionate towards our staff and students needs to help foster those relationships. Putting people first seems to come naturally to me. I want to help them and build their leadership capacity. Having clear priorities helps focus on the vision and mission of our school. A positive attitude also comes naturally to me and I think that people appreciate seeing the positivity! I have also worked hard to show pride in our school.

    • Kevin Moreland

      I enjoyed reading your post and agree that building relationships is a top priority. As an administrator we need to connect with our staff members on more than a supervisory role. We need to know and understand them as Teachers but understand they have a life outside of the school building as well. While we need to keep professional boundaries, having a good relationship with staff members will only help in the long run. By keeping a positive attitude it can help with staff members who may feel like their downing, but also keep you from getting overwhelmed in negativity. Keeping a positive attitude can help build those positive relationships while keeping up school morale.

  12. Mabel

    Working as a servant leader what I strive for within my school community. It is important that people within the organization know the leadership team is supportive and that their personal and professional goals are valued. This leads to a strong sense of trust and connection within the team. As a new administrator with 24 years classroom teaching experience, it comes naturally for me to support teachers especially when they have questions regarding the standards, teaching techniques, etc. It is a great feeling for when teachers ask for support, and I can be of assistance to ensure their success. In my opinion the job of an administrator is that of a “servant.” When I started my career in 1993, administrators had a different role within the school community. it is great to see how the leadership role has continued to evolve to ensure staff members are supported and empowered to perform at optimal levels.

  13. adriane rodriguez

    I find myself leaning more towards the servant role as opposed to the service role. I believe in putting less emphasis on placing my teachers in challenging scenarios than I do putting them in positions to succeed and building on their strengths.

  14. Michael Paoli

    I feel that my leadership style takes on more of a servant role. I feel that as a new administrator, I must find ways to encourage and coach those I supervise. As in any business, “Position Power” does not produce many positive results. When a manager tries to lead and manager by means of the position they hold, negative results are usually the outcome. In my opinion, leaders that display these types of management traits, due so to mask some insecurities.
    A major focus of mine as a new administrator is to gain trust with my staff and prove to them that I am here to help and assist in their efforts. I try to encourage my staff by focusing on the positive they are doing, encouraging them to do bigger and better things, and supporting their efforts. My focus is to build a “Team” through my servant style.

  15. Ayanna Johnson

    Servant leadership is why I became an administrator. I wanted to be able to equip teachers to be highly effective with students. In that effort, I have been my teachers’ biggest cheerleader and coach. The saying, “your attitude determines your altitude” is so true and why I love the article’s description of service leadership. Out of the 4P’s, I want to focus on pride this year. I build my staff up with words of affirmation and consistently thank them for their commitment to the vision. I want my staff to be proud of the work that we do, proud of our school, and proud of the village that we have created. Understanding the influence that we have on this generation keeps us persistent through challenges.

  16. Justin

    Service leadership allows individuals to have a great impact on their organization. As described in the blog article, this is only possible if leaders focus on the Four Ps of Service Leadership. Specifically, I think that the second P Clear Priorities, the less obvious of the four, is one of the more important concepts because it gives purpose. Of course being positive, supporting people’s needs, and encouraging others are essential to empowering those that we lead, but Clear Priorities transforms daily social interactions into game-changing movements. Clear Priorities gives purpose to what the business does and how the co-workers operate. When clear priorities are established, the focus transfers from money or test scores to a great good. The Four Ps alone can make people feel good, but together they can empower and help an organization be successful.

  17. Tia Long

    This article was right on time. I just had this conversation with a friend about my role as a leader. Being an administrator comes with so many responsibilities and if not careful, the “business” of the day can overwhelm you and may cause you to lose focus of what’s important. “Servant leadership is about empowering other not using power over them.” Being a servant should be at the heart of all administrators. It is one of the reasons why I have always desired to be in leadership. I have a heart for people! I enjoy empowering others. Most importantly, being able to empower students to go beyond their own expectations and limitations. There are two statements in this article that resonated with me, “…to be a leader you can be tough, you can be aggressive, you can have demanding standards–but if you can’t be compassionate, empathetic, and caring, you’re never going to build a team of people who feel valued and connected.”

    “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” -Lyndon B. Johnson

    • Allison Gerni

      I really appreciate your LBJ quote on how we need to focus our mindset on the tomorrows. I think that the daily routines can consume you, but if you do have a servant leadership people will fall into roles to assist with those tasks. The principals and leaders that I have looked up to in my life have been those who are compassionate and empathetic.

  18. Nathalie

    As I read through this post, I immediately thought the overlap between Servant Leadership and Reflective Leadership. Throughout my career, I have always leaned toward striking a balance in the employment of both styles even as a classroom teacher.
    In the article, “Reflective Leadership. Strategic Planning from the Heart and Soul”, Mary Looman argues that in order to address the global challenges that are faced today, leaders must develop a management style that is more ‘concerned with touching people’s soul, not controlling their action’. Looming states that leadership styles of the past, which placed an overemphasis on external characteristics, are not able to equip leaders with the skillsets needed to cope with ‘complex and volatile environmental and cultural trends’. In order to effectively lead and transform organizations, today’s leaders need to be more reflective. Looming describes Reflective Leaders as individuals who are able to use metacognitive skills that encourage continued evaluation of one’s integrity when working cognitive and emotional processes of leading an organization. Reflective leaders are able to inspire an organization toward self-actualization. Reflective Leaders operate at a metacognitive level when they ‘use both cognition and emotion in the performance of their role’.

  19. Colleen M. Conaty

    Being guided by positivity raises the potential for greatness in all circumstances. I have always believed that the “people work”- putting people first, far outweighs the significance and impact of “paper work”. Even the “paper work” needs to serve the “people work”, and put the peoples’ best interests first. Our capacity for and interpretation of what happens around us and our perceptions of how others interpret and handle situations surrounding us either sets us apart as leaders, or categorizes us into mere administrators. In our business, connection is always key- with our staff by acknowledging and respecting their efforts, with our families and by the way we treat them and their children in our care, and the work that we do on a daily basis- committing fully to it, taking ownership of it, and stoking the seeds of greatness all around us- that is what sets us apart as effective or just okay.

  20. Tom

    I am choosing to answer the challenge questions as a reply:

    How are you putting people’s needs above your own? I have always viewed the job of a good administrator to be a problem solving helper to the staff. I view my role as a troubleshooter with the key goal to make their jobs easier. This often means the majority of my school day is spent out of my office and not completing the paperwork that is piling up on my desk. I choose to put my staff’s needs during the day above my own because I feel that approach will have the most positive impact on the students.

    What is your organization doing to give back to the community? The main value we give back to the community is choice. As the only charter currently in Sussex County, we offer parents another option to provide the best education for their students. This doesn’t mean we are a “one size fits all” school and are the best for every child, but we can at least offer an alternative that can benefit interested families.

    What steps can you take to be sure that you and others in your organization view experiences through a positive lens? I always try to bring conversations back to our guiding documents and original vision and mission statements. So much can be lost in the day to day grind and sometimes drudging through from class to class. I think it is important to re-center the conversation when too many negatives start to add up.

    Do your people feel proud about the work they’re doing and are they future-driven about the value they add to your community? I think the turn out and staff involvement in building our school’s three year strategic plan speaks directly to this point. Many teachers are absolutely excite to continue to build our programs and success. Ours is still a relatively young High School and ever-growing Middle school. I feel the PLC groups and committees that were created as a result of the strategic planning are a reflection to future commitment to the community.

  21. Erika Murphy

    What a great resource and material to really get the mind going! I would most certainly say that I am a servant leader. One reason I love administration is to be a resource for those who need it most. Teachers are always in the front line and need someone who is there for support. Putting people first is so important especially as a leader. When others see that you are willing to do whatever is needed, I have seen that you will get so much more out of them! I also think having a positive attitude is equally as important. Positivity is always needed, but even more needed in a time like this!

  22. Allison Gerni

    I really liked the connection with the saying “Service Before Self…An Airman’s professional duties take precedence over personal desires.” I think this is consistent with what administrators do daily, especially during this pandemic. We strive to put the needs of our communities before our own and work to make sure our students are receiving their basic needs. I became an administrator to better serve students and to assist teachers to become masters at their craft. This year I really want to focus on people first because it is such a different year. There are so many individuals in our schools that are struggling with this pandemic. I think it is necessary to remind ourselves to find grace with our students and teachers. To focus on putting people first, I am going to be more of an active listener. Sometimes it’s difficult to shut off our brains and turn away from the computer, but sometimes people just need to have their concerns heard. They want to let off some steam and state their frustrations.

  23. Brandy Cooper

    I heard the terms service and servant leadership from a former principal several years ago during an informal interview for a class I was taking. Her words about wanting to serve others and the ways she was doing this every day in that position were inspiring to me as a teacher. The current principal at my school also does an amazing job at setting an example of creating community, pride, and emulating empathy and care. As a young teacher, I did not view school leaders in this way, which is why I never saw myself in that role. Thanks to the leaders I have had in later years, I have had positive examples of what great leadership can and should look like, as well as the impact it has on the culture of a school.

  24. Kevin Moreland

    While reading this article I continued to find myself gravitating towards service leadership and having a positive attitude. In these unprecedented times, service leadership can make the difference in a Teacher continuing to work hard for you or going through the motions because they are tired and worn out. Give the Teacher the opportunity to lean on you as an administrator and free up your time for them. Having a positive attitude is also a huge component that I try to utilize. It can be easy to get caught up in the negatives that occur on a daily basis, but if people see they are appreciated and being recognized for their work, they may be driven to go above and beyond in the future. Being positive can go a long way when attempting to improve staff morale.

  25. Beth

    I enjoyed reading about the 4 Ps of Service Leadership. It is a great framework for new administrators. Putting people first, making a clear list of priorities, and a displaying a positive attitude will make staff feel valued. In return, we can take pride in the success of our staff and students.

  26. Christina Bevenour

    Initially, I would say I take the track of a servant leader; however, in these unique times, I find myself assisting the teachers and staff, when I can to alleviate some stressors they are facing. The position I have recently taken over has seen a vast amount of turn over from the leadership position and the staff are nervous with each new admin. I have taken the approach to assuring the staff know they are valued and appreciated and assure that I am staying positive and providing them positive feedback. There are 1-2 new priorities we are working on but it is a slow process because of the new curriculums and the new way of teaching but the teachers and staff are aware and seem to be on board, for the most part. As a leader, I to to help with little things to assist the staff where I can- such as sending out e-mails to parents, assisting with coverage, inputting data, working with students and it has been appreciated by them and I think that is why they are more willing to take on new endeavors. I honestly do feel that I portray both servant and service. I think that by pitching in and helping out and being a team is the fairly effective for staff morale and what is beneficial for the students to observe.

  27. Gina Voges

    “Servant leadership is about empowering others, not using power over them.” This strongly resonated with me, while reading this article. I vowed to myself I would not be the kind of leader that when confronted with an issue, that I would make others solve. I want to be part of the solution. Shared leadership is also part of empowering other. Letting teachers take the lead ensures that everyone has a say in the solution and everyone is heard.


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