Continuing to shine the light on servant leadership


By South Carolina ASCD

In the May 2017 issue of ASCD’s Ed Leadership, Carol Tomlinson’s article Shining a Light on Leadership pointed out three powerful practices transformative teachers and principals follow as effective leaders.

  1. Leading from a Vision
  2. Minding the Process
  3. Servant Leadership

Her third point, Servant Leadership, left a lasting impression upon us as it focused our goal as leaders to serve our teachers, our students, and our communities. Carol eloquently wrote,  “Teachers and principals who are, for me, the clearest representatives of leadership exemplify the statement, ‘Leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of the people in your charge.’ ” (Sinek, 2015) Good teachers care about and for their students and good principals do the same for their faculty and students. Their work is about making school a more meaningful and rewarding place. It is about respecting the individuals they lead and ensuring that the work they share is both doable and satisfying. In both contexts, these leaders want to build a community of shared values in which individuals learn to trust and support one another in moving toward, achieving, and surpassing shared goals. Sergiovanni (1992) calls this follower-focused approach, “servant leadership…”

Tomlinson’s charge to shine a light on leadership through serving others has continued to resonate with us. Multiplying leadership that serves students and teachers has become our 2019-2020 focus at South Carolina ASCD for both our Board of Directors and our Emerging Leaders.  We were inspired by Tomlinson’s words and wrote our own definitions of servant leadership. We thoughtfully considered possibilities for serving those we are charged to lead in intentional and meaningful ways this year. Here are just a few of the possibilities we found to be servant leaders:

  • A little encouragement still goes a long way. We as educators need kind words, warm smiles, and encouragement.  As leaders, understanding the importance of modeling appropriately at all times is critical to empowering others, retention and helping to elevate this most wonderful profession that we have chosen.
  • Highlight the teaching profession; support positive changes in order to support students and their learning; foster pride in the teaching profession; influence change and proactive policies to benefit public education in our state.
  • Celebrate the leadership throughout the building – administration, teachers, support staff, students – the whole team.
  • Recognize best practices through initiatives like the Induction Teacher of the Year award; build capacity in others around us.
  • Take time once a week during our team meetings to discuss any classroom issues and concerns where we can throw out ideas together. We can provide feedback and maybe set up a time where a fellow teacher could come and observe.
  • First, we must define and model this action. I believe leaders know that they need people to achieve a mission. But leaders forget that they need to enrich their lives and build the capacity of the people vital to the mission. I believe that they forget to follow through on this concept. We must stress the importance of meeting the needs of those we serve. WE>me

John Maxwell once wrote, “Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”  If you were encouraged and inspired as we were by our 2019 SCASCD Executive Board and Emerging Leader servant leadership responses, we want to invite you to join our 2019 #SCASCDL2L movement and consider how you can be a servant leader this coming school year.  Feel free to tweet your response in our #teachthechange ongoing twitter chat.  Be sure to add our hashtags (#teachthechange, #SCASCDL2L, #lovescschools). 

Please also join us in person for our South Carolina ASCD Whole Child Conference on October 11 in Greenville.  Check out our website for details.