Success with Significance


Part of our responsibility as servant leaders is to leave behind something worthwhile, something that says, “I was here.” But in today’s world, we often become too busy to recognize how important it is to think beyond ourselves.  Luckily, there are a group of individuals in city government who think big picture.  The city of Carlsbad, Calif. dreamt about leaving a city that listens to its youth — creating a program to allow young people to express their hopes and dreams for the place they live and the people who make it a reality. It’s the Carlsbad Student Leadership Academy (CSLA). Now in its third term, the program has been wildly successful and it’s hard to tell who has gained more: the kids or the adults working with them. 

The program has three distinct phases:

YouSchool. This self-discovery-based program — Phase I — helps high school students understand their lives through the lens of story and take charge of getting the resources to reach their fullest potential to tell their own compelling story. 

LeadSchool. In Phase II, students gain practical leadership tools based on servant leadership as well as a framework for owning their personal development into leaders and effective influence through a learn-by-doing curriculum.

ServeSchool. Phase III is a challenge-based project focused on a real-life problem in the Carlsbad community, with students applying lessons learned from the first two phases to come up with a solution. The program concludes with project presentations by teams of students.  

What have we learned so far?

  1. Our world will be infinitely better with these young people growing into community contributors. These kids really care about their community and want to offer their ideas and energy to provide solutions to problems like homelessness, parking problems at their schools, and environmental issues.

  2. They want to be included in the conversation. These kids are ready and willing to help make their cities a better place. As servant leaders, shouldn’t we listen to understand even though they are young? They just might surprise us by offering an innovative solution.

  3. They want to be mentored. Young people are willing to listen to our stories. When we listen to understand, think about our thinking and add value to them, the rewards are great.


The Servant Leadership Institute is honored to be a part of this great program.  If you want to learn more about CSLA or create a program in your town, contact us at or visit the CSLA website at