Servant Leadership “For Real”


Recently, my family and I have been on a journey we never imagined would take place. Two months ago, my 28-year-old seemingly healthy son went in for a CT scan, as he was experiencing pain in his throat and jaw. He walked into the radiology department and rode out on a gurney. One week later, he had open- heart surgery to repair an aneurism and replace his heart valve. It was one of those life events that change everything and you know immediately what is important and what is not. 

The experience became the perfect platform for servant leadership, as I saw the genuine tangible evidence of servant leaders doing what they do — putting others first. Our house was cleaned, personal time off was donated by volunteers at our company, and I received assurances from my leaders that I could take whatever time off I needed because “our families come first.” Along the way, I made a few observations that I need to share as my way of giving back.

Go the extra mile. My son’s general practitioner ordered a CT scan. Two previous doctors had not gone that far. He went the extra mile. The technician doing the scan looked farther than he had to and found the aneurism. He went the extra mile. As a result, a young life was saved. It’s a dramatic example, I know, but my message is:

  • Don’t be defined by a policy, procedure or job description in what you do.
  • Go the extra mile in your work; serve a little harder. It could make all the difference.

Learn to accept help. As servant leaders, we work to focus on the needs of others. As a result, we often neglect ourselves or think it’s wrong to accept others putting us first. 

  • It’s important to accept help so others have the opportunity to serve.
  • It’s OK to admit you need to be helped at times.

Allow yourself and others time. When we deal with the truly tough stuff in life, we have a tendency to go into overdrive, deal with it and think when the immediate crisis is over everything will settle down and become “normal.” What we don’t understand is the aftermath. 

  • Whether it’s dealing with the recovery of a loved one or a layoff, there will be a mourning period and it can’t be denied or buried. 
  • Allow yourself the time to mourn the old and then accept the new “normal.” 
  • As a servant leader, I found a new perspective in looking at those around me and realizing they were mourning, too. The ability to see this is what brings you closer together as a family or an organization.

I spend my days sending the message of servant leadership out into the world. I have no expectations of how many people read or see the message and “get it.”  We’re not just talking about leading people in our businesses, even though that’s one of the best ways to start. Our quest is to help people find their “why” in life; find their purpose and serve others by sharing their gifts. We believe the world needs to practice servant leadership “for real” and we can all do it even if we only positively affect one person — just one.

What acts of servant leadership “for real” have you experienced lately? Please share them with us.


Carol Malinski
Director of Content and Curriculum