Kentucky School Advocate
By Mike Armstrong
KSBA Executive Director
“The servant-leader is servant first … It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions … The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.” —Robert K. Greenleaf
On Sept. 30, KSBA Associate Executive Director David Baird will retire from his position after having worked 10 years here at KSBA. During my time working here with David, I have come to the conclusion that he is the quintessential model of “servant leadership.” By modeling this style of leadership, David exemplifies the notion to always put first our membership and their needs. And he does so with the highest level of professionalism, empathy, foresight, trust and commitment. I will miss his daily presence.
This whole notion of servant leadership is, in my opinion, a valuable concept – and one that is well worth practicing. Being responsive to the needs and inquiries of our membership is a natural and necessary way of business. But in this ever-complicated world, filled with countless and potential distractions, it is indeed a challenge on some days for me to “keep my eyes on the prize.”
So how do we avoid being distracted, sidetracked or even befuddled by all of the potential interruptions and interferences that cross our paths every day? How do we keep from being diverted to other, less appropriate activities that can quickly and without real cause interrupt our valuable time and effort?
We have to be grounded to a purpose. We have to find that one goal and work toward it. We have to visualize the prize – and keep our eyes on it regardless of the day-to-day commotions that find us – regardless of our wants and desires to be so ill-engaged. And we have to have the resolve, the perseverance and the tenacity to not allow others and/or their actions to get us bogged down in activities that are not in our game plan.
Boards of education and their superintendents team up to make available one of the most valuable and innately cherished products known to mankind – an education. There are countless paths to ultimately attain such, but the ability of this team to put their shared vision into practice, set appropriate, measurable and observable goals and objectives, and then to objectively evaluate their product is a task not undertaken without either risk or criticism.
Sharing in “the good, the bad and the ugly” is a practice that boards of education and their superintendent do on a regular basis. Listening, listening again and then listening some more can provide valuable and constructive opportunities for the team to make a good product (education) better, and, in turn, make a better product the best.
I would offer, then, that our best board/superintendent teams work together to model the concept and practice of servant leadership. So lead together while yet acknowledging and respecting the specific and unique roles boards of education and their superintendent must fill. Work to leave it better than you found it. I can’t imagine a more lofty and admirable goal. Both individually and collectively, model servant leadership.