Servant leadership can be found in many forms. As the lesson states, servant leadership occurs “when leaders truly believe and act upon a desire to make their followers successful” (PSU, L. 11, p. 5). This is the base premise that I believe servant leaders build from. Thus, I believe that great coaches epitomize great servant leadership.
I remember the first time that I met my coach; little did I know the significant impact that she would make on my life. Only now when I look back on my childhood do I realize how her leadership skills enabled me to accomplish many different things in my life. I met my coach at age six, when I first joined an independent all-star cheerleading organization. I cheered for the program for a total of twelve years, and much of what I learned was not cheerleading related whatsoever. My coach depicted every one of the ten characteristics described by Northouse, but three stood out to me the most.
The first characteristic that my coach presented was the ability to listen. Northouse explains that, “servant leaders communicate by listening first”. (Northouse, 2013) This is something that my coach did without us even knowing it. She was always an easy person to talk to. Despite her busy schedule, she always made time to sit down to lunch with any of her athletes. She was always willing to listen to the comments and suggestions of parents as well. Due to her ability to listen, she was able to comprehend our desires and wishes. She would take our concerns about our skills or suggestions about our routine into consideration and work with us to make improvements. We were always able to open up and talk to her about everything and anything. This helped not only in regards to cheerleading, but also if one of us happened to have a bad day we had a shoulder to cry on. As a result, we formed a very strong relationship. When I look back on it today, I realize how great of a listener she really was. This has allowed me to learn how to listen to others and build strong relationships with them just as my coach had done for me.
The second characteristic that my coach possessed was the ability to conceptualize. Conceptualization “refers to an individual’s ability to be a visionary for an organization, providing a clear sense of its goals and direction”. (Northouse, 2013) My coach established her cheerleading organization from scratch; she had a clear goal from the very beginning. Her vision was to develop a cheerleading organization that not only produced high-quality athletes, but also developed individuals into high-class leaders that would contribute significantly to society in the future. My coach was the founder of the cheerleading organization and wrote the mission statement. While at the same time, she developed personal relationships with every single one of her athletes. My coach maintained her vision through implementation of clear goals. We had a set of very straightforward rules that we had to follow. Our parents were very closely knit and involved in the organization. Hard work and dedication to one another was the basis of everything that we did. Community involvement was a priority; we often participated in many volunteer initiatives in the community. All of these examples were part of her vision and directed us to become great cheerleaders as well as great leaders today.
A third characteristic that my coach possessed was her commitment to the growth of people, or in this case, her athletes. To me, this is the most important characteristic that she encompassed. Northouse describes: “servant leaders are committed to helping each person in the organization grow personally and professionally”. (Northouse, 2013) My coach did just this by fostering an environment to grow as a cheerleader and also one to grow as a person. In addition to becoming better athletes, my coach was very concerned with our ability to be great people. For example, if we were struggling with our academics, my coach would ask an older member of the team to help us with our work after practice. If it became a problem, you would be dismissed from the team. Academics was always a priority, even though the cheerleading organization was in no way related to a school. As I said before, community involvement and dedication to one another was also a priority. As a result of my coach’s commitment to helping me grow as a person, I have been able to take on leadership roles and help others to grow into better people through my involvement at Penn State and my dedication to helping others.
These three characteristics that my coach possessed helped me to become the person I am today. I learned the importance of listening to others and how to listen correctly. I can clearly conceptualize my own goals and define a path in which to attain them. Most importantly, I can help others to grow into great people that will make a positive impact on society. My coach’s servant leadership has allowed me to develop into a servant leader myself.
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (5th edition). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2011). PSYCH 485 Lesson 11: Introduction to Leadership. Retrieved on March 31, 2013 from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp13/psych485/003/content/11_lesson/05_page.html.