Thursday, May 12, 2011

What Do Servant School Leaders Do?

According to Ken Blanchard, what keeps people from becoming servant leaders is ego. Our ego gets in the way two ways, he says. The first way is false pride. “When you start thinking more of yourself than you should, that’s when you start pushing and shoving for credit and thinking leadership is about you rather than those who are led.” It is impossible to serve others in the leadership role when all you’re concerned about is whether you’ll get the credit. We’ve all worked for school administrators where everything done in the school or system is all about them, and they usually don’t last long. They move on to the next job that’ll feed their ego. Blanchard says that the second way that ego gets in the way of becoming a servant leader is through self-doubt and fear. It is quite difficult to serve others when you are too busy nursing fears of inadequacies and doubt. School administrators caught in this ego trap can’t be effective leaders because they are too busy trying to hide their faults and shortcomings, and God forbid that someone should point those out to them. They will strike back with a vengeance.

But what do servant leaders do? Specifically, what do school leaders who want to be servant leaders do? Using Ken Blanchard’s framework for what servant leaders do, here’s what servant school leaders do.

S See the Future.

School leaders who are servant leaders:

  • have a vision.
  • They know the destination for the school.
  • They know where the school currently is and want to take it to the next destination.
E Engage and Develop People

School leaders who are servant leaders:

  • Treat all school staff right because that is right.
  • Work to turn the school hierarchy upside down.
  • Focus on developing people to fit into the school’s future and inverted hierarchy.
R Reinvent Continuously

School leaders who are servant leaders:

  • Reinvent themselves continuously.
  • Instill the desire for improvement and reinvention in the whole school.
  • Change the school’s structure when it no longer serves the needs of kids. This means always keeping in mind that the school is there for the kids not the other way around.
V Value Results and Relationships

School leaders who are servant leaders:

  • Value both results and relationships with students, teachers, staff, parents, and broader community.
  • Maintain high expectations for those results and relationships.
E Embody the Values

School leaders who are servant leaders:

  • Build all leadership on trust.

Ultimately, if we want schools to be successful. the kind of leader is most important. Servant leadership can bring more success than any other type of leadership. Ultimately, it is just as Blanchard states: “Life is all about the choices we make as we interact with each other. We can choose to be self-serving or serving.” Servant school leaders choose to serve.

Note: Ken Blanchard’s book, Leading at a Higher Level is a must have addition to any school leaders Leadership Library. It is chocked full of ideas. I am still sorting through all the things I gleaned from this book.


  1. So glad I came across your post! I just ordered Blanchard's "Servant Leadership" yesterday - I can't wait to read it and see how it correlates to the things you talk about here from "Leading at a Higher Level"

  2. Blanchard has a whole chapter on Servant Leadership in his book Leading at a Higher Level. I'm glad my post helped.

  3. Thank you. As I begin to consider moving into the role of principal, this is most inspiring and daunting. Nothing rings truer to me. This is the kind of leader I want to follow and become.
    Peg Gillard

  4. Glad it helps. Blanchard does have a great deal to say that is valuable in any leadership role.