How to Teach Your Board About Servant Leadership
I’m wondering what advice you have regarding ‘selling’ humble leadership to boards, specifically School Boards.
In my experience, they view humility in leadership as a lack of strength and ability to ‘make the tough decisions.’
School Boards in the United States are are growing in diversity. 44 percent of members are female. In large districts, 21.8 percent of school boards members surveyed are African-American and six percent are Latino.
Visit: NSBA for FAQs regarding School Boards.
90 percent are concerned about an overly narrow focus on student achievement. In other words, most Board Members are committed to serving students. It’s an easy leap into a discussion of servant leadership.
Set aside 10 minutes at the beginning of Board meetings to define and discuss servant leadership. Humility is central to the discussion.
Here are a year’s worth of discussion questions for any Board. Use one question at the beginning of each monthly meeting.
- What are your definitions of humble/arrogant leadership?
- How might humility be stronger than arrogance?
- How might humility impact teaching and learning?
- How might humble leaders better embrace values than arrogant leaders?
- What are the traits of humble communication compared to arrogant communication?
- What is the relationship between humility, arrogance, and service?
- How do you see humility and arrogance at play in relationships?
- How does humility/arrogance impact the strength of teams and organization?
- What differences do you see between humble and arrogant posture, tone, and language?
- What are the strengths of humility and the weaknesses of arrogance?
- How have humble leaders impacted you? How might we emulate humble leaders?
- How might humble leaders be better at making tough decisions?
You might ask each board member to make a brief presentation to get the ball rolling.
What suggestions do you have for Just Wondering?
Tip: Honor humble leaders at Board meetings.
Give examples of humble leaders, this may influence the negative filter from the board.
It would even be fantastic (although all too rare) if they actually read Robert Greenleaf’s (the man who coined the term) book, The Servant as Leader, and then his other short book, Trustees as Servants. And, at Greenleaf.org (I’m not associated in any way), he wrote others on the topic. Dan, I liked your list of monthly discussion topics.
Dear Just Wondering,
Board members need to be both humble and strong.
Humble–open to the ideas of others. Not thinking–my idea is the only “right” idea.
Strong–at some point boards need to make a decision and stick with it.
Humility as the opposite of strength is the mindset of the playground bully. I think a good starting place would be to redefine humility.
I highly recommend John Carver’s book, “Boards That Make A Difference,” available at http://www.carvergovernance.com/pubs for the best information on leadership in public and non-profit boards. I took my board through his process and we created a Delegation of Authority Resolution that became a model in our industry of board and executive leadership.
Great discussion list for anyone looking to have a conversation about what it is and what it isn’t.
You may find the board doesn’t actually care. Most such groups are results-driven, via fairly simple metrics. If you get the numbers, they won’t care how you did it, if you don’t get the numbers, they will “know” your way is “wrong”.
Mitch, I believe you are all too correct. Hopefully, at various board meetings where the idea is brought up, maybe somewhere it will get some traction.
Great comments and posts. We have two boards we work with. I am going to share this post with them. I am curious about egos in the servant as a leader. Many boards often have certain members that have extremely large egos. How do you handle that???