We are quickly approaching the end of another calendar year and the midpoint of another academic year. This is an appropriate time for every “servant leader” in an educational setting to reflect on the past and refocus for the future. Every educator, regardless of the number of years they have spent in the field, should set aside some time and reflect on why they chose to get into this profession. After reflecting on their original motive, focus on a return to those elements during 2019. I offer the following resolutions for those educators who desire first to be servant leaders.
Resolution #1 – Think of others first. It cuts against the grain of most people to think of the needs of others first. That being said, most of us got into education because we wanted to positively impact the lives of our students. If we truly seek to add value to the lives of students or those we supervise- be resolute in meeting their needs. Only in serving first do we find the courage to lead.
Resolution #2 – Expect the best. As educators, we are charged with sharing the future for our students, our schools, our programs or our direct reports. While we certainly should expect the best from those we teach or those we lead we must first expect the best from ourselves. Every day of the upcoming year provides us with an opportunity to be our best for the sake of others. Our actions, words and even thoughts should inspire others around us (I know it’s a cliché) “to be the best that they can be.”
Resolution # 3 – Embody values. Servant leaders are value-driven. We must constantly question our own motives to ensure we are living and working according to the beliefs we espouse. At the ESC we have 8 basic belief statements all based on the philosophy of servant leadership. As the leader of this wonderful organization, I need to revisit these foundational beliefs often to make certain I’m “walking the talk.” Whatever system of beliefs is driving you, remember to revisit to ensure you are “walking your talk.” Students, teachers, parents and the community are watching you.
Resolution #4 – Accept responsibility. This is another resolution that is countercultural. This is the moment of truth for a servant leader AND these moments occur over and over again in our work and personal lives. I need to ask myself: “Do I own my own work or my own mistakes”? If you do others around you will respect that you take ownership of mistakes or errors in judgment. Subsequently, we gain trust, loyalty, and respect. This is true for teachers and for administrator board members too.
Resolution #5 – Respond with courage. Servant leadership, done well, always requires courage. Sometimes small and sometimes massive amounts of courage are required. We should be motivated by a higher moral authority – something other than the “job description” we were hired to fulfill. As mentioned in the above resolution we are willing to accept AND delegate responsibility. We are willing to share our power and control: this becomes especially difficult the higher on the “corporate food chain we are.” We are willing to hold ourselves and others accountable for their actions or lack of results.
Resolution #6 – See the future. Servant leaders in the classroom or central office need to take the time to envision a preferred future for our students, our teachers, our supervisors and our community. Good servant leaders will act with courage and take decisive action that leads toward that desired future. While the past is important in guiding our thinking and it should be honored, we must move toward a better tomorrow for those we are serving today.
Resolution #7 – Engage and develop others. This is the apex of servant leadership – pouring our lives into the lives of others so they too can become servant leaders. Teachers do this daily with their students – trying to shape them into independent and positive citizens who will positively impact our great nation. Principals and superintendents should be engaging in a purposeful form of leadership development. This development activity constitutes the most important thing a servant leader should do: intentional and proactive leadership development.
Our resolutions as servant leaders for 2019 should push us – they should provide that true stretch so that we can serve the needs of others more effectively in this upcoming year. Remember: WE WORK TO SERVE. Let’s create goals that maximize the impact we have during the upcoming year.