Are Leaders Servants?

“Passion is everything.  A leader can’t inspire without it.  When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” ~ Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks

close up photography of starbucks disposable cup

Photo by Adrianna Calvo on


It’s a big responsibility.

I signed up for a CEU class thru my alma mater, Columbia Southern University.  The class is titled, “Servant Leadership.”  Something I never really thought about.

Actually, come to learn, I DID think about it. I practice it.  I just never had a name to put on it.  You can find the definition here.  There are many well known companies that practice servant leadership — AFLAC, Southwest Airlines, Marriot International, Starbucks (hence the photo above — and I love me some Starbucks!), Synovus Financial, and Herman Miller to name a few.  If you would like a more complete list from Fortune Magazine, go here.  *** For some interesting reading, Google ” (insert business name here) and servant leadership” — some of the articles you will find share the foundations and beginnings of some of these well known companies.

This is not to say that EVERY employee, vendor or customer has had a stellar experience with these companies.  Experience is based on perception.  Some companies are very clear that they do not hire experience, they hire attitude.  So if a new hire is not willing to start in a menial job, thinking they are above such lowly work — that attitude shows they will not be successful in this company.  In an industry led by servant leadership, even the CEO or president is willing to do whatever task is at hand to contribute to building up not only the company but also employee relations and morale.  The line that divides administration from employees in many companies is blurred or missing in those companies practicing servant leadership.

While servant leadership is most commonly applied to companies, industries and business . . .  it is also applicable to home.

As a leader in my home, it is my responsibility as a parent to serve my children.  Not as in bow down, scrape, give-them-everything-they-ask-for, and wait on them hand-and-foot.  My job is to set the example – in all areas.

  • I go to work, they go to school.  Here we compare that to their job.  If you haven’t sat thru any period of time in public school recently, it is not easy.  It is noisy, demanding, rushed, varied, and stressful.
  • I do chores, I expect them to do chores.  If no one does them, they don’t get done.
  • I cannot expect them to keep their area clean if my room is a mess.  If I want them to make their beds, I have to make my bed.

What occurred to me last night, though, wasn’t even on my mind when I began thinking of this blog post.  Actually, servant leadership in the home wasn’t even an aspect I had considered.

I was tired.  We’ve had heavy snow, schools were closed and my grandson was here with us during the day.  My daughter has been staying with us for several days over the holidays and yesterday she spent 3 hours, yes — HOURS — in the bathroom getting ready.  Actually she was bopping between the bathroom and cooking in the kitchen.  But all of her hair products, straighteners, clips, makeup, clothes were scattered in the bathroom to where no one could use the facilities, let alone shower.  I was trying to be thoughtful as I thought she had to be at work . . . no, she didn’t.  But when she finally cleared out, she announced she had to give her son a shower.  No! No, no, no, no!  It is 11 am and I have things to do and I AM TAKING A SHOWER!!!  Your child is staying with me today and is not going anywhere until tomorrow, he does not NEED a shower right this minute.


My job in that moment was to set the example of how to handle frustration.

I didn’t yell.  I didn’t throw her stuff out of the bathroom (altho it was tempting).

I remained calm and explained the illogicality in her reasoning that her son required a shower that instant.  I pointed out that as the homeowner and an adult, I was not going to go to the post office, the store, the hardware store or anywhere else on my errands with bed head and post-sleep ick stuck to my skin.  (I am not normally “icky” when I sleep, but I had the bed warmer on and a little guy that puts out heat like a furnace sleeping with me and I was resultingly slightly sweaty when I woke up.)

Long story, short — if we want our children to grow up exhibiting characteristics of servant leadership, it has to be taught at home.  They cannot appreciate or practice it when they get older if they have no concept of it.

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