Happy Holidays to you and your family from the GLC, and welcome to the December edition of the GLC Newsletter.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
The holiday season provides many opportunities to give back to others. It can be in the form of a thoughtful gift, demonstrating an act of kindness, or volunteering in your community. But are these acts of leadership? What does it mean to be a servant-leader?
The idea of servant-leadership was pioneered by long-time AT&T executive Robert Greenleaf in his famous essay The Servant as Leader, published in 1970. His work has inspired countless leadership development programs, books, self-assessments, and even a center that bears his name.
Although it seems common sense today, servant-leadership was somewhat radical and paradoxical at the time:
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first... The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”
Servant-leadership may seem simple but the concept is paramount today. In a world fueled by metrics and deliverables, Greenleaf’s ideas remind us of the importance to care for people first. Servant-leaders only gain the power and authority of leadership through their dedicated focus on meeting the needs of others. It is this ethical and authentic leader-follower dynamic that empowers people towards greatness.
Additionally, the principle of servant-leadership is central to a liberal arts education and the way we define leadership at Gettysburg College. The mission of the GLC is to help students and young alumni recognize their potential for leadership and their responsibility to serve. These values are personified in the great work of our students and alumni, such as former GLC leadership mentor Monae Evans ’15, who has dedicated her personal and professional life to serving and advocating for those adversely impacted by the criminal justice system.
As you approach your leadership endeavors in the year ahead, I encourage you to find ways to serve first. Through this type of leadership, we can create great things together.
Thank you so much for your continued support of the GLC.
Executive Director, Garthwait Leadership Center