Servant Leadership: Secular Philosophy or Spiritual Principles 


In my previous entry, I mentioned the word serve. I stated that I would elaborate on servant leadership and how it allows for success when leading others. However, as I pondered on how to proceed with this posting my thoughts switched gears. So, I ask that you indulge me as I go on a hunt to uncover some truths.

To serve or be a servant really just means to put yourself last. You are giving up your own desires and making your purpose the same as the one you serve. This concept is not one that is new to me because it has been the backdrop of my life. I was raised to keep spiritual principles at the forefront of my life. In teachings I received as a child and young adult being a servant was and is the great goal… abandon and flee from selfish desires.

  But I noticed, here recently that the concept of  serving others is catching on in secular spaces. It has been my experience that in secular spaces navel gazing aspects were taught and competition was bred. So, to hear this transition in rhetoric, my ears perked.  However, you have to listen closely to distinguish what is truly being said because it is being sold as Servant Leadership. In religious or spiritual spaces it is referred to as being Christ like or taking on the “fruitage of the spirit” (Gal 5:22-23). While it excites me to see these traits being pushed in a mainstream model, I am disturbed at its packing.

For those who may not have a spiritual base, they may take this model of servant leadership as mere secular philosophy. And I would not blame anyone for doing such because that is how it is being presented. Many authors and scholars are writing up articles around these traits as if they have created this model themselves. When in fact this form of leadership dates back to biblical times and is recorded in the Bible itself.

In a servant leadership model there are some cornerstone traits like empathy, integrity, humility, flexibility, resilience, and stewardship. But, I would argue that these are the same traits that are described in the Bible. 

Empathy:  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15

Integrity: “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”        Proverbs 21:3

Humility:  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Col 3:12

Flexibility: “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

Resilience: “So, then, because we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also throw off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Stewardship: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

These traits are ones that are often cultivated continuously. Now, you may be thinking well, I am not a religious or spiritual person.  Or you may be thinking I don’t believe in Christ. So, here is my reply to that. Everyone is free to have a choice in what they believe or don’t believe. However, if you look at this write up from only a spiritual view you would be sadly mistaken because Jesus had an impact so great as a leader that time as we understand it is centered around his birth. Now,  you must admit, whether you are trying to achieve a secular goal or spiritual one, the model of servant leadership is obviously profound and reward yielding.

Happy Sunday!

Reflect, Refine, & Realign~ Signing Off

Understanding The How of Instructional Coaching

As an instructional coach, it is imperative to have the willingness and ability to reinvent yourself. Coaching, mentoring, training, and consulting all require a common skill set for success. You must possess the ability to see and adapt to the needs of the one you serve. 

SERVE, that is a verb that we should take some time to break down and understand. However, I want to finish the original thought first.

So, let’s expand on the skills of foresight and analysis.  When you are charged with supporting and building the capacity of others, you must first be able to see the areas in which they may need growth. The person you are working with will have all the facts and details to point you in the right direction. But it is up to you to have the ability to piece together all of the singular details that will be shared with you. At times, the person or organization you may be working for will feel as if they know the “problem of practice”. However, they may be too close to the source. Often times, when we are caught in the cycle or system that we are trying to change, we can become off balance and start confusing causes and symptoms. Therefore, it is necessary for us, as instructional leaders, to constantly strengthen our ability to not only see the problem of practice but to be able to identify the system or culture that allows it to exist. 

Then, once you have analyzed and identified, you need to be able to adapt. The English proverb, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, comes to mind. This expression is used often to help others understand that as a visitor in someone else’s space, it is customary to abide by the customs and norms of those around you. It is often thought to be advantageous to live by this proverb. As an instructional coach, I believe that it is essential to know your audience. Before, you start coaching or stating what the problem is, according to you, you should take time to learn the culture of the organization. When working with individuals, you should take time to learn how the coachee communicates and the way in which they need to receive communication. For example, some people are straight talkers. They want the facts and you do not need to sugar coat or add fluff to soften the constructive criticism or feedback. Others need more finesse and subtlety. Then, still, there are other personality types that will never receive the feedback, if they can’t see it themselves. When working with those of that personality type, you must be able to set the stage, so that the problem of practice has a spotlight. After you have created the conditions for the problem of practice to be visible, then you allow the coachee to point it out.  If you have employed any of these strategies, then you have adapted to your environment. The goal is to be flexible and comfortable with reinventing yourself, in efforts to get the job done. Most often, our responsibility as an instructional coach is to build the capacity of our educators, so student achievement and well-being increase. In order to successfully accomplish this goal, we have to know the master we serve. 

Wow, the word serve is inescapable. In my next post, I will explore what serve, servant, and servant leadership means and why it is the most successful form of the How, in instructional coaching.

“What Does it Mean When a Black Girl Rolls Her Eyes?”

I imagine that you have read the title of this post and may be thinking this is an unusual title for an educational blog. If that thought is running through your mind, I would like to say you are absolutely right. This title is … highly unusual for an education related blog posting. But, I want to share some commentary around this question. So, let me just jump into it.On Monday, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend an instructional coaching training. The learning environment was just amazing in the room. Everyone in the room was engaged and ready to become forces of change for our school districts. Then, the speaker asked the crowd, “Do you know the number one reason why black girls are sent to the office with referrals?” Some people started whispering answers around their tables, others looked around the room awkwardly. After a carefully planned pause, the speaker proceeded to say “the number one reason listed on the referrals for black girls is disrespect and defiance for eye rolling.” Everyone in the room mumbled and nodded as if to say, I should have known. The speaker than went on to discuss the need for cultural competency in education, highlighting how teachers are misinterpreting the behaviors of students of color. This sentence immediately made my eyebrows raise and my ears perk. I instantly had a feeling of worry about the information that I was hearing. I felt worry not because of the fact that the speaker was talking on a controversial topic, but the fact that she was misrepresenting a major issue for students of color.It became clear that the message being spread to a room full of educators was that when students of color roll their eyes it means something other than they disagree with what is either being said or done. So, the speaker goes on to say “the last time I said this someone asked, so what does it mean when a black girl rolls her eyes?”. The speaker laughs a little, pauses and says “I replied, it means the same thing as it does when a white girl does it.” The room chuckled uncomfortably for a minute and the conference continued on from there.I couldn’t quite move on from there because I was still stunned by what had just happened. In my mind, this educational leader had mislead their audience. Then, they had the nerve to give a snappy reply, when someone asked a logical question based on the premise they had set. Let’s dissect this situation.I would argue that eye rolling is just as universal as sticking your middle finger up. It is a nonverbal cue for disagreement. Now that we have that premise established, let’s talk about the real reason students of color are sent to the office disproportionately for eye rolling. It really has nothing to do with misinterpreting the meaning of the nonverbal cue. It has everything to do with the fact that, we live in a nation where people of color were once seen as property. They were not allowed the right to the same freedoms as their Anglo counterparts. Translation, the implicit bias that exists in all of us, takes over and causes the teacher to become more annoyed by the fact that a student of color rolled their eyes. The heart of the matter is that even though we say freedom of expression applies to everyone, it truly does not. Students of color do not receive the privilege of verbal or nonverbal disagreement with authority. This harsh reality has roots in the history of our nation and those roots are firmly planted into the subconsciousness of all its citizens. These subconscious messages have effects on our behavior, they cause us to commit micro-agressions. Micro-aggressions are the unintentional hostile behaviors that people take part in, during everyday life. Teachers will say, “No, I was not being discriminatory towards that student; they did something wrong.” I would argue, while that may be true the student did give a nonverbal cue for disrespect, but so did all the other students in your class. So, why haven’t you written a referral for everyone?