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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

It All Starts with Servant Leadership

I often think back to my Master's Program at San Jose State University, surrounded by classmates who are now steadfast friends and colleagues for life. One of those first classes we encountered was that entry level "Ed Leadership 101" type of course. For those of you in education, I'm sure you know the course....the basics of leadership that includes the question - What is your leadership style?

At the time I wasn't so sure what my style was. I frequently likened myself to a chameleon. What type of leader did I need to be in a certain role? What was needed of me? I think most of us can assimilate into different roles fairly easily.

When I was at the Santa Clara County Office of Education, the focus was on servant leadership. Finally! I got it! The ability to work with (and for) a leader whose vision I believed in, who always brought forward his A game, and who showed us what it meant to truly be a servant leader - how lucky were we! Our departments, particularly Educational Services, certainly embodied what it meant to be a servant leader and serve and support our districts.

As I reflect back upon my interview for Superintendent, round one, I recall one of the early questions in the two hour drill session. What is your leadership style? I went into an explanation of what it meant to be a servant leader, with examples of how it resonated with me and how my experience at the County Office finally shaped my leadership style.

And then didn't get it. Being a servant leader didn't resonate with the Board. At all. Great feedback from the recruiters but how did I go wrong? How could anyone misunderstand servant leadership, especially in public education? It begins with the root SERVE.

Maybe this post serves to revisit what it means to be a servant leader. Do you know what a servant leader believes?

Servant leaders believe.....

- everyone should be treated with respect

- when clear of the purpose beyond themselves, staff can be inspired

- educator others on servant leadership

- resiliency should be frequently embodied

- mentoring begins with "me"

- close observing and careful listening are essential

- others need to be held accountable

The one thing that makes a servant leader stand out in a crowd is always checking in to see what else can be done. Asking the question, "What else can I help you with?" often pushes the envelope to address areas of question or concern.

Are you a servant leader?

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