Servant Leadership as a Coaching Model

In trying to figure out who I could coach, especially in my position, our instructor suggested that at look at this from the lens of Servant Leadership. I have read about Servant Leadership in the past but needed to refresh my understanding. 

The term was first presented by a retired AT&T executive Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970, and has impacted the leadership styles of many in education and business. Larry Spears of the Spears Center for Servant Leadership further explains that “servant leadership seeks to involve others in decision making, is strongly based in ethical and caring behavior, and enhances the growth of workers while improving the caring and quality of organizational life. (Spears)”

Spears has defined ten characteristics of a Servant Leader through his study of Greenleaf’s original writings. These characteristics are viewed as crucial in the development of servant-leaders, the definitions of which have been clarified by McClellan. The characteristics are: 

Characteristic Knowledge and Skills
Listening Must listen carefully to what is said and what is unsaid.   Identifies and clarifies the will of the group, combined with self-reflection. Understand body language in relation to culture and interest.
Empathy Always assumes the intentions of others are good. Accept people for themselves and gets past unacceptable behaviors. Makes every effort to understand and have insight into others.
Healing Strives to make self and others whole. Understands when and how to counseling and or coaching.
Awareness Recognition of others and self. View situations through lenses of values, ethics and influence.
Persuasion Ability to build consensus in groups without using position of authority. Seeks to convince, encourage or influence.
Conceptualization Theoretical understanding of organizations, including roles and responsibilities. Comprehends issues of equity especially as it relates to bias and sensitivity. Does not judge, analyzes day to day activities and is able to create visions/dreams.
Foresight Intuition. Is able to use past experiences, current realities and understand consequences of future actions.
Stewardship Elect actions and activities for the greater good of others.
Commitment to the growth of people A commitment to the growth and development of others. Through an understanding of how we think and learn, providing professional development opportunities.
Building community Understanding of and construction of local communities.  Is able to facilitate the shaping of specific community groups.

These are characteristics that I am learning in my position, and I have a very good role model in our science director. As I have developed relationships with teachers during my reviews, there is one teacher that I have had consistent contact and correspondence with. Because of her extensive experience in integrating Computer Science, I have asked her to participate on our Leadership Team as an Elementary Teacher representative. I know that I can learn much from her, and she has asked for guidance in curriculum selection and teaching strategies.

My role would be to help her guide the team in the distinct needs of elementary teachers to be able provide rich computer science instruction and meet student outcomes. I would carry out the role through the ten characteristics, focusing on her growth and develop of community.

The final question being, who could fulfill the role of the principal?


McClellan, J. L. (2009). The levels of leadership and transcendent servant leadership development. Volume 8, Number 2-Fall 2009, 88.

Spears, L. C. (2010). Character and servant leadership: Ten characteristics of effective, caring leaders. The Journal of Virtues & Leadership, 1(1), 25-30.

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3 thoughts on “Servant Leadership as a Coaching Model

  1. Hmmm, “who will fit the role of principal” is a tough question for our group! Thanks for sharing the list of characteristics for servant leadership- the explanation of foresight was my favorite!

  2. The ideas from servant leadership seems so relevant to coaching. Which do you feel are most important to you and your coaching work? It will also be interesting to see how you define which teachers are most willing to collaborate with a coach and how that definition helps you develop effective learning partnerships.

    1. Thank you for sharing the characteristics of the servant-leader. I read them and wonder which specific characteristics cross-over to the traditional peer-coaching model–Listening, awareness, commitment to the growth of people? I’m challenging myself to pull from one of the other characteristics and weave it in to my own peer coaching relationship. Thank you!

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