Starting in middle school, I attended mission trips to children’s homes Monterrey and Tijuana, Mexico. I would forego my privileged middle-class life for a few weeks at a time to scrub filthy toilets, strip and refinish dilapidated donated furniture, revitalize faded beloved murals, and create renovation plans for these homes. The children were not all orphans, so we called these places children’s homes instead of orphanages. The funding was scarce for these homes and they never turned down a child that needed a place to be, so understandably, these weren’t the best living conditions. This was my first introduction to servant leadership, where I had to take over a project and complete it in the time with some help from my fellow travelers. Our lesson describes servant leadership akin to parents raising their children in a servant like manner, by focusing on them and raising them as healthy-adults, which allows the children to grow up to do the same for their children (PSU, 2018). Fast forwarding to today, I am the head of a group called Karuna30A. We’re not an organization or a 501c3, but just a group of people who like to do good things. We are throwing a huge Christmas music festival with 12 bands, two stages, silent auction and raffle, pictures with Santa, sleigh rides, and so much more, for only one reason. Our neighbors are hurting after Hurricane Michael, so we are raising money for our local United Way and Toys for Tots. This is the third event that I have created, the first was a music festival for the American Himalayan Foundation after the horrific earthquake in Nepal in 2015, and one for a local musician who fell deathly ill. I have been the leader for all three of these events, which has only happened through servant leadership. I’m hoping that I can utilize some of these skills as this event comes together.
Our text defines servant leadership as desiring to serve first, and that inspires leadership (Northouse, 2019). These leaders have ten characteristics, listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community (Northouse, 2019). There are many different key characteristics of the servant leadership listed in the text, but most revolve around those 10 principles. In order to be effective and become a servant leader, the leadership-sphere has to be relevant for the times, me taking the reins for a fundraiser after Hurricane Michael set me up quite well in this respect. There are also leader attributes and follower receptivity, both of these fell into place for this event. I have organized many other events and I know how to delegate tasks so my helpers feel like they are making a difference so I have the skill set and the list of people who are excited to help, my followers.
When it comes to behaviors, I conceptualized all of the events we have planned and basically got it rolling through to the day that the event happens, which I then turn over to my volunteers to do their part. By having this event, it helps our community heal a little more. As we drive to work and school, we still see sailboats on land, trees uprooted, neighborhoods entirely covered with blue tarp roofs, people living in tent cities, and businesses destroyed. Any sense of normalcy and helping others right now is very cathartic. I’m standing with my followers who want to help, I’m standing by my communities who need the help, and by the communities that want to provide the help. One thing that I always try to do is helping my followers succeed and grow, as well as empower them. One of my favorite things to do is to assign someone a task, and tell them that I trust their judgement and I know they will do a great job! I found that when I trusted a helper with an entire task without micromanaging, they really do an excellent job and they take great pride in the task! The last thing that I believe this group of events has allowed me to do is to create value for the community. Not only do I help a group of people come together to make this event happen, I also help members of the community come to an event, donate toys to kids in need, and also have a great holiday centric event for their family. Not only do they get this Christmas spirit from the activities, but also their participation helps those who are still displaced months after the hurricane.
Northouse says that effective servant leaders develop a long term relationship with their followers (2019). I hope to continue this tradition as Karuna30A started back in 2015 and we’re still going strong with more followers and attendees RSVPing on the Facebook event each day and liking our Karuna30A Facebook page. We never accept money for payment for doing this event, and I’m 100% transparent in what we need to get to accomplish our goals, with all sponsorships going towards paying location fees directly so we remain ethical.
So, what have I learned from this lesson? Basically, keep doing what I’m doing. By having a cause that I love, I’m devoted to the event, I have a great group of helpers that see my vision. I enable those followers to have confidence in the tasks they perform, and I hold myself and the volunteers to the highest ethical standards. Not only are we creating community within my volunteers, but also within the actual community to bring assistance to our neighbors in need after Hurricane Michael. Northouse says that the outcome of servant leadership is that my followers have greater self-actualization, they do their assigned work, and encourages the followers to become servant leaders too (2019). Nikki, one of my main volunteers, has really stepped up during this event to help me as I work full time, go to school full time, and I am organizing this event. She started as our staff photographer on the first event, and she has taken the initiative to really excel on this third event. Northouse also talks about the organizational performance under servant leadership, where the team is more effective and they go above and beyond the requests made of them (2019). I found this especially true where my volunteer crew is excited to volunteer their time to pick up donations, orchestrate drop offs, and volunteer their business’ resources as sponsors. Through this project, we are going to have a great societal impact, which Northouse mentions is a positive impact on society (2019). The first two events we held raised over $25,000 and this third event is going to be the most successful!
So, unbeknownst to me, I lead in a servant leadership manner for my Karuna30A events. I do lead by other methods for different situations though! Due to the nature of what Karuna does, spreading loving compassion to those in need, it seems like a perfect leadership model. I am able to encourage my volunteers to do their work and grow, I’m able to make an impact with the volunteers and the beneficiaries of the event, I’m able to act in the utmost ethical way, and have a great time helping those who need help the most.
Northouse, P.G. (2019). Leadership: Theory and practice (Eighth Edition). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2018). PSYCH 485 Lesson 11: Servant Leadership. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1942231/modules/items/25010892