A look at servant leadership

A look at servant leadership

I guess this is my Jesuit upbringing. It comes from the bible where there are many parts, but one body, where when one suffers, we all suffer. I mean it’s a fundamental, a very human value.” – Governor Gavin Newson

In the April 16, 2020 online edition of the Forbes publication, contributor, William F. Meehan III, writes about leadership strategy. Three prominent leaders in the news are the focus of his column; California Governor, Gavin Newsom. New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., and they all share something in common. Two of the three graduated from a parochial high school, and all attended a college and/or university also owned and operated by a Catholic institution.

Chris Devron, S.J., the subject of an interview in Meeham’s column, expresses the purpose and reasons for this commonality quite well. He states, “The mission of Jesuit education aims to impart a sense of belonging, which is nurtured through care for the individual person, and a sense of purpose, becoming a “Man or Woman for others” and dedicating one’s life for God’s greater glory.” He concludes when it occurs during high school, it has the potential for life-long transformation and impact.

Servant leadership. What a novel idea! And at a time when the world greatly needs such people, especially those employed in key areas of public, private and governmental entities, and can rise above the political fray and actually do their jobs well, saving lives during this pandemic, without caring whether their actions in their field of expertise might offend someone who sits in a higher political office.

My synopsis of his book, Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector, co-authored with Kim Starkey Jonker is brief; all educational institutions should have clear, focused mission statements, and should instill the value of serving others. Plus, it should be all-inclusive throughout the school, its leaders, faculty, students and alumni.

Though Meeham writes from a secular level, reflecting on the religious upbringing and training which guides the actions of such high profile notables as Dr. Fauci, Governors Newsom and Cuomo, one cannot understate the value such training provided by all parochial schools and church-related universities of higher education.

I support Meeham’s thesis that education must impart this sense of purpose, but also believe this imparting of knowledge and purpose begins at an earlier stage in life.

I would move further down the food chain, as it were. The education, mentoring, moral and spiritual guidance given by parents, grandparents, elementary school teachers and such, is especially important.

Servant leadership is not simply a concept to be emphasized, or even mentored while studying for a degree in high school or college. It is a lifestyle of modeling, nurturing, imitating the servant model of Jesus Christ. It is putting the interests of others above yourself. It is a sacrificial lifestyle, thinking more highly of others than ourselves.

My parents were modeling this for me at an early age. An uncle, now deceased, lived it his entire life, preferring to serve, even if it cost him.

Shortly after I made the decision to step up and become an advocate for agriculture, a farmer approached and asked, “Why are you doing this now? You have no business volunteering until you’ve made a lot of money for yourself. Then, you can go and do what you want.”

My response; if not me, then who? Who will represent me and my interests and folks like me? A wealthy man does not even care what I think, much less speak up and represent me.

For more than fifteen years, my decision to serve brought incredible experiences while representing many thousands of farm families across this entire nation. It also included a cost and often, sacrifice. A sacrifice of time, loss of family experiences while traveling, often when special events were taking place. But we made them up in other ways.

The reward, however, was seeing bills passed that required that extra push to get the votes. It was rewarding to see the $4 billion drought disaster aid package pass on a bipartisan vote, signed by the president after a disastrous mid-term election convinced him to change his mind. Today, that multi-year drought is but a memory of families who survived.

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