I first heard about the concept of Servant Leadership several years ago and appreciated its main ideas:
A servant leader is someone who “shares power, puts the needs of the employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people.”
It’s really about framing one’s MINDSET about how you relate to others in the workplace — about how one goes about their day — in other words, how a leader thinks, speaks and acts to support the people in the organization.
When I contextualize it for myself, I picture it being about my words and my actions that build the confidence, abilities and leadership in others. It’s also an area where I continually think of ways to become better.
Being part of a smaller school district, it is imperative that I lead in areas that build capacity — both in individuals and in our district. It is capacity that helps to build the redundancies in skills and knowledge which enable our district to withstand things like sudden illnesses or departures.
It was my first year as Superintendent here in Saanich and I was extremely excited for my new beginning. Our senior team consisted of myself, two Assistant Superintendents and the Secretary-Treasurer (CFO). It was a really good team and one that I knew I could learn a lot from — it was an exciting time.
Within a few months I learned that both Assistant Superintendents would be moving on — one to a new job and the other to retirement. It was going to be a significant loss of institutional knowledge to the school district, including myself.
Was this an opportunity or a catastrophe?
It actually depends on your mindset. The ‘sky is falling’ crowd would find all sorts of reasons to despair. The optimist would look at it as an opportunity to find new ways of moving forward. I chose the latter.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There was certainly a small sense of ‘oh-oh’ at the beginning, but more because I hadn’t yet worked out a plan. I found the news actually quite motivating. Yes, there would be a significant shift in the team and a big loss of institutional knowledge, but it also gave me the opportunity to consider how else we might be able to support our schools, teachers and students in a better way.