Servant Leadership, Success as a Principal, Social Justice in Schools, and More w/ ASCD Best Selling Author Principal Baruti Kafele

Servant Leadership, Success as a Principal, Social Justice in Schools, and More w/ ASCD Best Selling Author Principal Baruti Kafele

A highly-regarded urban educator in New Jersey for over twenty years, Principal Baruti Kafele distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher in East Orange, NJ, he was selected as the East Orange School District and Essex County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, he was a New Jersey State Teacher of the Year finalist, and a recipient of the New Jersey Education Association Award of Excellence.

As a middle and high school principal, Principal Kafele led the turnaround of four different New Jersey urban schools, including “The Mighty” Newark Tech, which went from a low-performing school in need of improvement to national recognition, which included U.S. News and World Report Magazine recognizing it three times as one of America’s best high schools.

One of the most sought-after school leadership experts and education speakers in America, Principal Kafele is impacting America’s schools! He has delivered over two thousand conference and program keynotes, professional development workshops, parenting seminars and student assemblies over his 34 years of public speaking. An expert in the area of “attitude transformation,” Principal Kafele is the leading authority for providing effective classroom and school leadership strategies toward closing what he coined as the “Attitude Gap.”

A prolific writer, Principal Kafele has written extensively on professional development strategies for creating a positive school climate and culture, transforming the attitudes of at-risk students, motivating Black males to excel in the classroom, and school leadership practices for inspiring schoolwide excellence. In addition to writing several professional articles for popular education journals, he has authored eleven books, including his six ASCD best sellers — Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School & in Life, Closing the Attitude Gap, The Teacher 50, Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?, The Principal 50, and The Assistant Principal 50. He is also the author of the ASCD book, The Aspiring Principal 50. His next book – The Equity and Social Justice Education 50 will be released in May, 2021.

Key Thoughts from Our Interview w/ Principal Kafele:

Principal Kafele dives deep into how principals can best support their teachers to create an award winning school. He also delves into the topic of social justice and how every listener can better understand what this means to reimagine our schools for the future.

  • Listen to how Principal Kafele shielded his teachers, allowing them to focus on their classroom and their students.
  • Principal Kafele describes his philosophy regarding lesson planning and the power of only planning one week at a time. “If you’re not planning, you’re winging it.”
  • He describes what supportive leadership really is and what it looks like in practice. Don’t miss the story he tells about challenging his superintendent.  
  • Principal Kafele identifies Frank Mickens and his success as a principal as instrumental in his own development.
  • You don’t want to miss his advice on how to regain your purpose and stay true to your why. His own why: “I want to build men out of boys.”
  • Similar to other guests, Principal Kafele describes his desire to jump from an airplane. He already knows how to fly one. 
  • Several times, Principal Kafele described “holes” in our current conversations about equity in schools. He lists 4 books that everyone should read to have an understanding of race, racism, and social justice in America.
  • Listen to how Principal Kafele’s views have changed on teachers and what makes the difference in the lives of children. “We need solid people who can take care of business and who will learn what they don’t know.” 

Principal Kafele’s interview is a powerful testimony of someone who has successfully led award-winning schools amid incredibly challenging circumstances. We are grateful that he discussed how social justice can be reflected throughout the curriculum and what we can do to better prepare ourselves as educational leaders. It was an awesome follow-up to our latest blogpost on service leadership

We hope to hear from you about your favorite parts of both the blog and the interview. Please comment below. 

Please follow, like, and share. Use #onethingseries and #SH302 so that we can find you. For more great leadership content, follow

Joe & T.J.

Also, on April, 15th, we begin our Second Masterclass on Candid and Compassionate Feedback. Request info by emailing Or, reserve your seat here. Or, read more about how it works here. Don’t miss out early bird pricing. 


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Principal Leaders, Don’t Fail to Serve: Master the 4 P’s of Service Leadership

Principal Leaders, Don’t Fail to Serve: Master the 4 P’s of Service Leadership

What’s Your Leadership Style? 

We’re not keen on labels. Why? Because labels typically end up limiting our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves and others. That said, identifying your leadership styles and strengths through reflection or by using a tool can be enlightening. You might find that you excel at communication and relationship building. You might realize that your style is more autocratic than authoritative. Or, maybe you learn that your strengths are visioning and goal setting, delegating and empowering the work that you want others to champion.

The question that all principals must ask themselves is: “what are the lived experiences of the people I seek to serve?” In other words, what is it like to be my follower, to work with me, and to experience my leadership? This type of reflection leads to perspective-finding, which is a powerful way to learn and grow. When we come to the realization that our role is in service of others, we can truly do what it takes to lead at a higher level. 

Servant Versus Service 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].” 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 demand-and-control mentality upside-down so that serving others is at the heart of leading. The goal is to fulfill the mission of the organization–to enable those whom the leader serves to best fulfill their role and to maximize their potential within the structures and norms of the organization. But, being a servant leader is not the same as service leadership. The simplest way to draw the distinction is that servant leaders use delegation and empowerment versus micro-management and authority; they see their job as setting the vision and getting out of the way. Service leaders, on the other hand, provide something special and unique for each person on the team or for the community at large. They don’t just empower, they provide. You can be both but only if you understand how each style works independently of the other. 

A Look Outside of Education: A Great Leader Who is 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 restaurant owner, he embraces the spirit and 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 for the organization. In fact, Scott talks about getting out of the way so that people can exercise their greatest gifts, living by the vision of the company. That’s true servant leadership. 

But, Scott doesn’t also have to be a service leader. As a servant leader, he doesn’t need to go beyond SoDel Concepts to service the community, but he does. 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. In growing your service leadership mindset, we have four areas that need attention to be a true service leader in your school and beyond.  

TheSchoolHouse302 Four Ps of Service Leadership 

#1 — People First.

Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. ~ Anne Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox

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 school and live out the core beliefs, the people must feel valued and appreciated through the actions of the leader. You can see in this case that the captain provided a service above what it means to help people be their best self at work (servant leadership). 

Challenge Question: How are you putting people’s needs first by providing something unique to fulfil their needs?

#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, Author 

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 that 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 school doing to give back to the community? 

#3 — Positive Attitude.  

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. ~ Maya Angelou

Having a positive attitude is a fundamental way to approach life so 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 that 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 methods that leaders put in place for themselves: 1. We have to be intentionally mindful and take notice of all of the great aspects and joys in life, not just the issues that plague too much of our mental space. 2. When faced with any situation, especially negative, leaders must be aware of their initial reactions. 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.” We realize that the daily grind makes implementing both of these mental methods challenging, but that’s the point, isn’t it? The power is in the control that 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.” 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 because of the praise they receive? 

Service leadership is about 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 first takes an understanding of oneself and inventory of your leadership style so that you can be the leader you wish to be for others. Being of service creates a greater sense of community, it works for the betterment of our society as a whole. The greatest service leadership 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. Reach out and let us know how you are serving the people who you lead. 

Stay tuned for more nuggets of wisdom, podcasts, books to read, reflection sessions, and the best resources for leading better and growing faster in schools. Follow us at to join thousands of leaders who get our content each month. Send this to a friend. 

As always, let us know what you think of this with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCould. And, again, 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. 

#5thSunday: Year-End Reflection Infographic–R.E.F.L.E.C.T.

#5thSunday: Year-End Reflection Infographic–R.E.F.L.E.C.T.

Every month at TheSchoolHouse302, you get a blog post with a leadership development model, a podcast with a leading expert, a “read this” with three book selections, and a review and reflection tool–all on a particular topic of leadership to help you lead better and grow faster. Posts are always blasted out on Sundays so that leaders can think and prepare for the week ahead. In months when we have 5 Sundays, we also provide an infographic to help visualize and solidify the concept. This month, as we end our year, we want to R.E.F.L.E.C.T. on several powerful concepts to propel our success into the future of 2019. We hope you enjoy and Happy New Year. R.E.F.L.E.C.T._Infographic As always, please like, follow, and comment. If you have topics of interest, guests you want us to interview, or books that we should read and recommend, please let us know that as well. Joe & T.J.
#review&reflect: Making Connections and Networking for Leaders

#review&reflect: Making Connections and Networking for Leaders

A Model for Networking

This is TheSchoolHouse302 monthly #review&reflect, wrapping up our focus on Connecting with Others to Grow Your Network for continued and greater success.

Skills I need…

Our world grows and is enriched when we connect with other people. The question is, how well do you connect with others to grow yourself and your organization?

Review: This month we focused on connecting with others to specifically grow your network. To do so effectively, we introduced our three-part model, PRC, to illustrate simple, easy, and effective ways to connect with other people. The first part of the model simply states: Plan.

Plantake time to think about who the people are before you decide to reach out.

This list of people you identify to reach out to should coincide with your needs and the needs of your organization. Who you want to reach out to and why you need to connect are critical to consider in making the connection meaningful and worthwhile. We view networking and connection as a way to add value for you and your organization. Whether the benefit is information or specific goods and services, the goal is to grow your network intentionally. Recently, at the 2018 Visible Learning Conference, we had the distinct please of meeting several educators who are achieving wonderful things as speakers and writers. Conferences are a great place for connecting, not only to attend great sessions to learn, but also to meet people who can contribute in some way to you and your work. Knowing the who of your next connection is important but knowing the where and when is imperative as well. That brings us to the next step in the model, which is to Reach Out.

Reach Outbe sure to capitalize on your network by reaching out to others.

Reaching out is the next step and requires action. Once you have the list, be sure to contact the individuals. We’ve found that people are incredibly receptive and willing to connect with others. Most leaders intuitively understand the genuine benefit of strong networks. This is very obvious with social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn where you can connect with people from around the world to share ideas and grow. However, don’t just think about people you don’t know, there are a lot of people from your past and individuals with only a degree of separation between you and them who you can reach out to and connect with. The last part of the model is to actually connect.

Connectuse emotional intelligence to truly connect with yourself and other people.

Connection goes beyond just reaching out and making contact, it delves into the social and emotional side of connecting with others on a different level. Networking allows us to meet so many unique people from varied walks of life who can bring a fullness and understanding to ourselves, to others, and to unique situations we face. Growing your network expands your universe, which broadens perspectives and creates opportunities. In this regard, we think of our network as energy. The bigger the network, the more energy it produces.

The model is straightforward, and, most importantly, it includes a specific call-to-action to bridge worlds. It recognizes the importance of making connections to network–the work behind the curtain of goal setting and goal getting.  

Making Connections

Reflect: Each aspect of the model is critical for overall success and maximum effectiveness. While reviewing and considering each, determine which one you need to focus on to grow your network? For example, you may easily meet individuals, create an immediate connection, but fail to grow the relationship in a beneficial way after that. Each part of the model empowers you to connect and grow with others. We heard from Dr. Mark Brainard on the importance of connection for service-based industries. As the president of Delaware Technical Community College, it is imperative that he meets the needs of multiple stakeholders with the ultimate goal of benefiting the entire community and state through an educated and productive workforce. He reminds us that networking provides insight into every facet of the organization. He emphasized the need to connect with people within the organization and not just outside the company.

As a leader, are you aware of the people who you need to connect with to help you and your organization grow?

How do I learn those skills…

What should I read to continually learn and grow if I want to make new connection and grow my network?

Review: In our #readthisseries we featured the work of authors who embody what it means to make the connections necessary to be an effective leader:

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Everybody Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently by John Maxwell

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly

You can’t miss our #readthisseries on making connections and networking as the lead learner in your organization. Watch it again here.

Reflect: Do I have a firm grasp on what my organization needs? Do I have clarity around who I want to contact and why? How well do I build relationships? Of the three parts of the model, which one do I need to start today to be more connected? Do I have people in my past who I can reach out to with an intention to reignite a once thriving relationship?

Great leaders understand the power of networking and the immediate impact someone else can have on them. Making time within their day or week to evaluate how someone else can positively impact themselves and their work is a critical first step in acknowledging the power of networking. This month, reflect on how well you build your network. Is this something you actively do? Based on the 3-part model, and using a 5-point scale, 1 being ineffective and 5 being highly effective, rate yourself and your team:


Who should I follow…

What does an expert have to say about networking and connecting with others?

Review: For our #onethingseries, we interviewed Dr. Mark Brainard, President of Delaware Technical and Community College.

Throughout the interview, Dr. Brainard emphasized how leaders must connect with individuals within the organization and learn from every person in every position. He emphasized how leaders are made when no one is watching and the power of emotional intelligence. His thoughts on networking genuinely represent his desire, as President of Del Tech, to provide an incredible education for his students and to ultimately serve the community.

Reflect: Dr. Brainard reminds us of the power of connecting with every person and seeing relationships through a whole new lens, something that benefits everyone.

As a leader, how well do you connect with others and foster positive relationships among those in your organization to create positive results and outcomes?

The definition of leadership is influence, and by making connections, you can expand your influence. By expanding your influence, you can be helpful to more people, and that’s one of the most important characteristics of any great leader–the desire to help others.

That’s our #review&reflect for making connections and networking. Take a look back to take a step forward.

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

Please let us know how our leadership posts are working for you, what you are reading to improve yourself, and your thoughts on leadership and growth here on our blog and Twitter. Follow our #onethingseries podcast on iTunes and our #readthisseries on YouTube.

Joe & T.J.

#readthisseries: Making Connections & Networking

#readthisseries: Making Connections & Networking


Don’t miss this vblog on books you need to read to lead better and grow faster. We recommend three titles that are must-reads on the topic of making connections and networking. You can find our catalog of great leadership books at — click on #readthisseries.


Carnegie, D. (1998). How to win friends and influence people. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Kelly, K. (2016). The inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future. New York: Penguin Books.

Maxwell, J. (2010). Everyone communicates, few connect: What the most effective people do differently. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

As always, please like, follow, and comment. If you have books that we should read and recommend, please let us know that as well.

Joe & T.J.

#onethingseries: Making Better Connections w/ President Mark Brainard (@DrMarkBrainard)

#onethingseries: Making Better Connections w/ President Mark Brainard (@DrMarkBrainard)


Don’t miss this fantastic leadership interview with Dr. Mark Brainard, @DrMarkBrainard, the fifth president of Delaware Technical Community College.  Dr. Brainard has a wealth of leadership experience in a variety of capacities. He spent over three decades in a series of executive-level leadership roles in the higher education, business, government, and legislative arenas in Delaware. He has served as chief of staff for the House Minority Caucus in the Delaware State Legislature, Director of External Affairs at DelDOT, Assistant Vice President for Human Resources and Legal Affairs at Delaware Tech, Executive Vice President of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, and Chief of Staff for Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner. His experiences and genuine belief in providing a first class education that meets the needs of students and the community is evident throughout this podcast.

  • Listen to what Mark says about how Del Tech has evolved through their efforts to truly listen to their community–businesses and students–to not only attract and prepare learners, but to ensure that they fully meet the needs of the future.
  • Even as president of the college, Mark emphasized how critical it is  to learn from people in every position in the organization. He stated, “leaders are made when no one is looking.” The organization is not one person, it’s everyone.
  • Mark reinforced that our peak performance comes from exercising regularly, especially in positions that don’t require a lot of physical activity. Major takeaway–don’t miss it.
  • In light of his successes and various positions held, he stressed a true desire to learn current and cutting edge technology that is changing the way we live.
  • Mark attributes much of his success in life to reading, a huge part of his ongoing development as a learner and leader. He reminded of us of the power in having an E.Q. along with an I.Q. Be sure to check out Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence as well as Robert Cooper and Ayman Sawaf’s Executive E.Q.
  • Finally, you have to hear what he says about how we are programmed to deal with situations and life and the mistake we may be making along the way.

Dr. Brainard’s interview is jam packed with practical advice for leaders, and it’s a must for anyone leading an organization who is service-oriented and constantly evolving to meet the demands of those who they serve. Of particular interest is his focus on making connections, networking, and finding the right people to take the next steps for the organization to stay healthy.

Please follow, like, and comment. Use #onethingseries and #SH302 so that we can find you.

Joe & T.J.

Claim Your FREE Copy to Our Praise Practice- Practical Praise Giving Tips for Principals

Claim Your FREE Copy to Our Praise Practice- Practical Praise Giving Tips for Principals

Learn how you can give practical praise each day as you lead your school to develop a better and more positive culture through this complimentary eBook we use in our workshops to help principals all over the nation and subscribe for more resources like this one delivered to your inbox. 

Congratulations on claiming your copy - you may download it here: