Servant, Leader or Both?

“I’m right. You’re wrong.” No compromise whatsoever.

This single-mindedness is alive and well in society. It leads to divisiveness among adults. And children are watching. That’s right.

My children.
Your children.
Everyone’s children.

Role models truly matter. They always have. They always will.

At the end of the day, we are all human? Aren’t we more alike than different, regardless of any other defining labels?

So I say, “Where are the servant leaders?” We desperately need them to bring balance to the conversation.

These individuals are courageous, not satisfied with being labeled conservative or liberal. An absolute left or right doesn’t exist in their mind. Instead, they seek the whole truth – ever diplomatic with their words. The answer is usually found somewhere in the middle.

Moreover, they are patient and empathetic. They accept, include, integrate, unite and act – building bridges instead of walls. Leading by example, not fear. When wrong, they admit their mistake.

And they always show respect and tolerance for all – regardless of deeply-held personal views. Servant leadership is a perfect blend of liberty and equality – the richness of the American way.

Without question, the words “servant” and “leadership” can co-exist as the Greenleaf Center states.


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.

The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?“


Servant-leaders focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

Shares power and puts the needs of others first.

No doubt, servant leadership isn’t just about politics – or special interest money. What about education, health care, human services, business and even the family?

One person can make a difference. 

Think about successful school principals. They aren’t hiding behind a desk. They routinely are seen interacting with students and staff.

In turn, children feel valued – not forgotten. Thank you, Shelly Haley.

Think about respected doctors. They aren’t rushing through appointments. They make time to listen to patients and their parents.

In turn, children feel respected – not judged. Thank you, Sharon Gilliland.

Think about effective social workers, counselors and therapists. They aren’t offering cookie cutter solutions, without a second thought. They understand family dynamics and empower.

In turn, children feel heard – not ignored. Thank you, Jamie Thomas.

Think about businesses that turn a profit. They aren’t focused solely on the bottom line. They realize the importance of building local partnerships.

In turn, children feel embraced – not dismissed. Thank you, Finish Line.

And think about involved parents. They aren’t only concerned about their sons and daughters but every child. They know the actions of one can affect all.

In turn, children feel acknowledged – not isolated. Thank you, Dana Cochran-Wiley.

These people are servant leaders in the truest sense of the word – believing that outcomes improve when everyone is engaged, even though that approach takes more time and energy.

But we need to grow more of them.


Five years ago Bobby Cox, Commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, challenged the 18 athlete leaders on its Student Advisory Committee to serve their respective school communities. To give more unselfishly and take less for granted.

Today hundreds of Indiana high schools are part of an inclusion revolution with Special Olympics Indiana called Champions Together.

Perhaps a storm of parents need to follow these students’ lead. Together, they can increase dialogue. Build coalitions. Take meaningful action. Improve outcomes – and probably reduce costs.

Servant leadership. Changing the lives – and the livelihood of our children.  DCP


Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE

To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love

To follow my son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page Andrew Peterson Goes for the Gold

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