In John Barbute's article Becoming a Servant Leader: Do You Have What it Takes, he details characteristics of servant leadership developed by Robert Greenleaf and Larry Spears. These are characteristics that are observable in most leaders who demonstrate servant leadership. These characteristics are: Calling, Listening, Empathy, Healing, Awareness, Persuasion, Conceptualization, Foresight, Stewardship, Growth, and Building Community.
Servant leaders have many of these characteristics inherent, and can develop some of the characteristics, but their ultimate goal as servant leader is to develop those traits in others within the organization, becoming both a leader of leaders as well as servant of servants. When exploring this list of 11 characteristics, I feel that five of these characteristics may play a particularly important role in educational organizations: calling, empathy, stewardship, growth, and building a community.
A calling is an internal pull towards something, a drive or desirous feeling that moves one to seek an answer. When someone is called to education, their calling is to teach, or serve, their students and to develop a greatness in others. A calling is not something that a leader can cultivate in others, you either have a calling to education or you don't. What the leader can do however is to develop the awareness in whether one is called to serve others in education or not. A calling is a passion, and one cannot be a great teacher without being passionate. By helping others to hear their calling, the leader can ensure that passionate teachers are in their schools.
Empathy is an important trait in educators because of the realization that all students are at different places and have different backgrounds. All of their stories are different, so there is not one "right" way to teach something. Through demonstrating empathy, teachers can get to know their students and understand their thoughts, and then adjust their instruction. Empathy is another trait that is difficult for a leader to cultivate, the leader can maintain point of view and perception of various ideas as they plan with their organization. Through modeling empathy in their interactions, the leader can encourage and motivate others.
Stewardship is what the leader displays to demonstrate that they are willing to aid in the development of the organization, and not it self-interest. Stewardship is the understanding that the organization is the focus of efforts, and that others will step in afterwards to continue to movement. Through realization that one is not indispensable within the organization, then one can commit their efforts to maintaining and continuing the efforts being made. The leader can help develop stewardship in the staff through the use of grade move-ups, where the teacher moves grades with the class, or providing opportunities for staff to switch grade levels. These situations allow teachers to see continuity in curriculum amongst grades, but also to realize that they are not just grade level teacher, but a teacher within the school, of and for all students.
Schools are in the business of teaching and learning, and learning is growth. Growth is something that should be stressed and analyzed. Focusing on learning within instruction will lead to the need for proof of learning. Proof of learning illustrates growth. Leaders can use this in two ways to cultivate in the school. Leaders can use growth data to analyze school and grades successes and needs. Leaders can also encourage self-growth and development in teachers, to perfect practice and increase knowledge.
The ultimate goal of any servant leader is to create a community, a team of professionals working together, for one another, to achieve a vision. The leader can cultivate community in the school by providing opportunities for staff to work together, to identify goals, to identify solutions, and to work together to achieve those solutions. If one person pushes a rock, when the person stops pushing the rock stops rolling. But when a leader can get everyone to push the rock, people can become interchangeable, come and go, yet to rock will continue to roll. When the rock is rolling, more are likely to join in and lend a push. The community pushes the rock, the leader makes sure the rock is rolling in the right direction
Through the development of these characteristics in the organization, the leader can transform the school into a learning and growing organization that serves one another and the students.