The phrase "servant leader" was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 essay titled, The Servant as Leader. In that essay, he said: "The servant-leader is servant first... It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first."
A president or chair who is a servant leader bears several powerful and influential characteristics. A few of these are:
- Works to establish an inclusive group of parents and supporters. This doesn't mean you have to love everyone or have Thanksgiving dinner with them. It does, however, demand you avail yourself to being an inviting individual before, during and after meetings and events sponsored or hosted by your organization.
- Gets hands dirty and doesn't mind doing so.
- Speaks in sincere, positive and inviting ways.
- Stays clear of being the center of conflict, but establishes himself/herself as a steady head and voice of reasoning and resolution.
- Understands that being the organization's president or chair doesn't mean you wear a crown nor have a reserved parking spot at the school. Instead, you allow others to go before you.
- Listens. Listens. Listens.
- Surrounds himself/herself with a positive, cohesive team of leaders. Your officers are a reflection of you—good or bad.
- Develops leaders as soon as they begin as music parents. One of the best legacies a servant leader can leave is planting seeds for leadership growth.
- Seeks input and counsel from others such as the music director, parents, teachers, businesses and the local community.
- Sparks excitement and enthusiasm within the organization.
- Encourages others to remain focused on first things first.
- Sees the role as president as "TEAM," not "me." Remember, the world does not revolve around you. Being a humble, roll-up-your-sleeves type person will make you an even more effective leader.
Being a servant leader does not necessarily mean you must be charismatic or an extreme extrovert. I've known many excellent leaders who are neither. Some of the best servant leaders I've known were those who, without fanfare, demonstrated the characteristics I've listed.
Serving as president or chair of your music boosters organization is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a more efficient and effective organization and to develop an even better school and community thanks in large measure to your servant-like influence.
Marc C. Whitt is an AMPassador from Richmond, Kentucky. A former president of the Madison Central High School Band Boosters Inc., Marc was awarded the "2010 Kentucky Music Educators Association District 11 Friends of Music Award" for his support of music education. He and his wife, Jennifer, are the parents of three children who were and are in the band. They are currently serving their 9th year as band boosters.