Last updated on January 21, 2022
This article was written by the Dallas College Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
As we kick off 2022, Dallas College’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion encourages you to lean into servant leadership. This article takes readers on the quest of learning how to elevate their leadership skills while centering humanity and humility.
What Is Servant Leadership?
To be a servant who leads, or a leader who serves? While on the surface these two descriptions may seem paradoxical, they can truly be one and the same. Originally coined by Dr. Robert K. Greenleaf, the term “servant leadership” describes a natural ability to serve, reinforced by the conscious decision to lead, and the manifestation of the servant leader’s highest priority to ensure that people’s needs are met.
This service is cultivated by first focusing on the well-being and growth of the individual, then expanding to the emerging and equitable needs of a group, creating a ripple effect across the whole community. Servant leadership is founded on the underlying belief that one person, through their work, can make a meaningful contribution and difference not only to the people they interact with, but also to the communities they serve.
Servant Leadership Is Giving
Servant leadership comes in many forms. It can come in the form of a philanthropic conglomerate of business leaders, such as the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT), which has a 68-year history serving as a “safety net for social-service agencies in Dallas.” A living example of their slogan, “Where Giving Thrives, Communities Thrive,” CFT has a longstanding exemplary reputation of community impact in the areas of philanthropy, economic security, education, disaster relief and recovery, and racial equity, to name a few.
Recognizing that there was much to learn about equity-focused organizations in North Texas, particularly in the aftermath of the July 7, 2016, shooting that took place at a peaceful protest, CFT ramped up its racial equity grant process. Its grants benefited 62 organizations, totaling over $310,000. One beneficiary of these much-needed resources was Bachman Lake Together, an organization serving North Dallas that provides educational resources and support to children under the age of 5 and their families.
Servant Leadership Is Caring
Bachman Lake Together, a grassroots organization in a historically underserved, low-income neighborhood, has been focusing on early childhood education to fuel social change for over 10 years. This is another example of servant leadership. The Bachman Lake Together-sponsored Community Action Network has served and led brave conversations about race, racism and community members’ lived experiences for the past several years. Founded on the vision of creating a community where parents and their children can thrive in school and in life, Bachman also serves other organizations such as Lumin Education, Catholic Charities Dallas and Dallas Concilio.
While serving other organizations, their community and individual families, the organization also nurtures the development of servant leadership among the parents who are part of its community. In an article by the Dallas Morning News, we learn a valuable takeaway: When a community comes together — from the philanthropic organizations to community organizations and their constituents — this concept of the servant as leader and leader as servant can yield transformational results.
Servant Leadership Is You, Me and We
Servant leadership starts with individuals who take action. Actively participating in conversations about the need to dismantle the various forms of societal oppression is one way to activate oneself and others. Servant leadership is also about amplifying a genuine desire to make things better, by using your voice to speak out against injustices publicly and bravely.
Additional methods of socially just servant leadership include exercising your voting rights, protesting and demonstrating for social justice, teaching others how to activate their agency, volunteering with local community organizations, strategizing a collective for the purposes of group solidarity, fiscally supporting human and civil rights organizations and engaging in mutual aid opportunities.
There are several pathways on the journey of social justice, and this includes learning how each person’s servant leadership approach and contribution better supports the collective. The act and actions of servant leadership take many forms.
So, are you a servant who leads, a leader who serves or both? Exercise your servant leadership within your sphere of influence and communities.
About the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Dallas College celebrates the rich and diverse tapestry of our community members, their heritages, customs, practices and values. We are committed to highlighting topics that will advance our knowledge and understanding to bring about greater inclusion and community-based belonging. We encourage dialogues that help us to not only grow our understanding and empathy toward others, but that also support personal growth and exploration.
We continue to encourage our community members to act with kindness in mind and heart and treat each other with empathy and compassion. Let’s live our mission and values by honoring our differences, embracing our distinct cultures and uplifting each other.
General number: 214-378-1591
Voice line: 972-860-7800