SERVE before you LEAD


Sometimes we find ourselves in the line of fire after doing a good deed or going the extra mile. We had a plan and we executed it but instead of the accolades or even thanks that we expected to receive, in leadership we are sometimes met with the cold shoulder. Our staff misunderstood our intention. Our message did not translate clearly. Our message was clear but the effort wasn’t perceived as necessary by the recipients. When this happens it can feel like all of the work put into doing your best was wasted. You may begin to think that you just have a “bad bunch” of teachers/students/principals and that you have to weed out the “bad apples” to get to the results and clear understanding that you were hoping to achieve. That simply isn’t true. You are in leadership to pull out the best in your team as a whole, and that means figuring out a way forward past the tough parts. The team has to endeavor to do the work together. The team that has to design the solutions and the team that has to clearly define the problem. You as a leader, have to get them there. When we try to help but we haven’t leveraged the collective resources of our team, yes we may arrive at the correct solution but we get there alone and that means the team is still left behind.


One of my FAVORITE (are you saying it along with me by now?) TED Talks on the topic of Servant Leadership is this one by Ali Fett: SIDE NOTE: Feel free to skip the first 5 minutes and begin listening at 5:07 for all of the Type As who just want to get to the heart of the message 

My big takeaways from this Talk were these:

  1. People quit people and not the work
    1. If people are leaving us it could be because there are systems in place that leave staff/students/principals feeling unsupported or unrecognized and therefore they leave to find that support and recognition so that they can do their best work elsewhere
  2. Our students/teachers/principals spend a BIG chunk of their lives with us. We HAVE to be intentional about building relationships with them. They are growing older with us literally.
  3. ASK QUESTIONS and SEEK TO UNDERSTAND FIRST before making an assumption about a person, their behavior, or their lives. We don’t know their story…even if we know their story.
  4. Make room for creativity and transparency. This one goes without saying. We can’t grow the best people if we never get behind their ideas in a real way and also we can’t grow the best people if we can’t be open enough to admit mistakes


I know this may seem like a lot to digest but it is better that you get started now than continue to grapple with solvable issues for the forseeable future. Remember, to lead is to constantly learn and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will. You need to be a servant first if you want to lead. Like the adage says, people have to know how much you care before they care how much you know.  – Dr. Kia