Brandi Crawford-Lavoie

What does it mean to have a servant’s heart? According to James C. Hunter “being the servant is simply the business of identifying and meeting the legitimate needs of the people entrusted to your care. Meeting their needs, not their wants – being their servant, not their slave” (Hunter, 2012). Simply put it means to take care of others. What does that mean for directors in child care programs? It means we must take care of or serve the employees, the children in our care and the families in our program.

Have you ever worked for someone that you knew cared about you? Someone that took care of your needs at work and maybe even reached out personally to say she cared? Have you ever worked for someone that only cared about themselves? Someone that never listened to your ideas or took care of your needs at work? How did you feel? I know I have worked with both types of employers and being cared for, listened to and respected was a much better work environment than the other option.

As directors we have the power to make people feel good and to care for people. This is a big responsibility, but one of my favorite parts of my job. I know many people may feel like they don’t have time to do one more thing and this sounds time consuming; but it’s not. In part 2 I will dive further into concrete ways you can be a servant leader while taking care of the business of your program. For this article though I want to share with you some qualities of servant leader.

Although I am referring mostly to directors, a servant leader can be anyone that leads others: teachers, volunteers, directors or owners.

So, what are the qualities of a Servant Leader?

* Values different opinionsvalues all person’s ideas and opinions. If you expect people to repeat your opinion you are not a servant leader.

* Creates an atmosphere of trust people feel trusted and feel they can come to you. Little to no gossip “at the water cooler”.

* Develop other leaderswe teach others to lead, provide opportunities to grow. We are not always leading but giving up “power” so someone else can lead.

* Help others with life issueshelp provide and/ or support opportunities outside the job.

* Encouragesa trademark of a servant leader. “Let’s go do it” NOT “You go do it”

* Sells instead of tellsOpposite of a dictator, persuades not commands. Able to get others to be on board. Others have a “buy in”.

* Thinks “you” not “me”a selfless quality “how does this benefit the program, the staff, the students” NOT “how does this benefit me”.

* Thinks long-termthinking about the next leader, next generation, next opportunity for the program.

* Acts with humilitydoesn’t think she is better than everyone else, doesn’t wear a title to show who is in charge. She doesn’t ask anyone to do something she is not willing to do or does as an example of service to others.

Do you recognize any of these qualities in yourself or someone you work with? Do you want to have more of these qualities? I try and fail daily as a servant leader; but I always come back and try again. We need to learn from our mistakes and develop ways to make the changes in ourselves and our programs to be more servant-like. Begin to examine what qualities you have as a servant leader and what areas you can grow in. In the next article I will share ways to improve our servant leadership skills with concrete ideas you can implement in your program.