Living to Serve: Servant Leadership
Savannah Stroebel, 2018-2019 Idaho FFA State Reporter
Nelson Mandela once said, “A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, where upon the others follow, not realizing that all along they were being directed from behind.” I am a confident believer that the best way to be a leader, is to be a servant leader. This type of leadership puts the growth and experience of followers and members first. Servant leadership is saying, “Where am I needed?” and not minding if you are recognized for it. Helping others develop their tool box in order to achieve their goals has always brought a smile to my face. Nothing makes me happier than watching someone grow into the best version of themselves and I love to be a part of their journey, encouraging and helping them.
In high school, I had the opportunity to be a part of many different clubs and organizations. I was primarily a member of my FFA chapter and my school’s National Honor Society chapter. Both of these clubs have an emphasis in serving others and giving back. One of my favorite memories from high school is when I was asked to work with a local elementary school’s Junior Honor Society. I spent time with 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, helping them develop their leadership skills and passion for serving others. I remember during my time spent with these kids that I felt defeated, because it didn’t seem like they were retaining my message very well. I worried that I wasn’t explaining the content well enough or that my teaching methods were not very effective. When I left on the first day, I had accepted that when I would return in a few months that they would not have done any of the community service projects we had planned together, and it would be my fault.
When I came back, I braced myself to be disappointed- not in the students, but in myself. We sat in a circle and with slim hopes, I asked if anyone had anything they would like to share about their projects. Every single group stood up and shared how they had been impacted by the projects they had done over the holiday season. These kids had organized canned food drives, collected pet shelter supplies, given clothes and toiletries to homeless shelters, helped at soup kitchens, visited assisted/senior living centers, and created care packages for kids in hospitals. One student, with tears streaming down his face, shared that his grandfather had recently passed away from cancer so for his project, he visited cancer patients in the hospital. He said that it was one of the best things he had ever done.
When I left that day, I sat in my car for almost an hour reflecting on the stories the kids had shared. I cried- my heart was overjoyed because I realized that 1) I had made a difference in these kids’ lives and 2) they went on to make a difference in the lives of others and 3) even though it was my job to teach them about servant leadership, they had taught me about the widespread impact that our service can have. This experience solidified my desire to be an educator and my faith in the strength of true leadership.
Leadership is not about taking credit for being the boss or directing the event. Leadership is about building other leaders. A selfish leader may accomplish the task at hand, but they may have missed an opportunity to help others develop their skills. When I think about servant leadership, the phrase, “people over policy” comes to mind. While leadership may not always be in a political setting, it’s important for us to remember that when we are guiding others, we are dealing with real people. These people have their own stories, talents, and insecurities. If we are conscious of the people around us, we will be better able to help them grow and succeed.
There is simply no greater joy than serving others. A genuine heart and a sincere love for people are what make servant leadership so powerful. I am proud to be a part of an organization that embodies the true meaning of, “living to serve.”