The need for servant leaders

March 13, 2013 

A servant leader is one who puts the common good before his or her agenda. This type of leader seeks to serve instead of ruling. There is a significant difference between serving and ruling and it is difficult to see whether or not most of today’s elected officials understand the differences.

Of course there is the possibility that they do see the difference and they find that serving does not fit their agendas, so they move away from the notion of serving and strive to rule. In that case, as it is today at all levels in our country, we get results that don’t support the common good.

The best example of this at the moment is right here in our town with our school system. If we had a board that understood and worked to practice servant leadership, we would be in a very different place today.

The members have made it clear they cannot work together. It is important to think about their dilemma. When each of them sought to be elected, it was clear there were other members of the board and part of the job requirement was working with the current members and any others who might be elected. This work is actually no different from every other aspect of life where we are called upon to work with folks who do not always agree with us.

One would hope that all of the board members have had enough life experience to have learned that working with diverse world views is necessary if you are elected by the people to serve their common good.

The idea of the common good fuels the heart of the servant leader. Today there are too few arenas where the common good is considered important. Quite the contrary is true and the focus is more often than not upon the welfare of the powerful, or whatever group with whom the elected person has kinship or allegiance.

In Macon we become divided on far too many issues around race. Over the past years as we have observed the work of our school board, there have been many times when race seems to have been the most important determiner of the direction the board followed.

The night is long and we are too far from home with the challenge of trying to educate some 25,000 children so they can go out into the world with skills to move along to the next stages of their lives to continue to have this type of leadership.

We can no longer afford to have almost 50 percent of our children dropping out of school and a large percentage becoming the grist for the prison mill in our state. We cannot afford the economic blight that will continue to haunt this city because we do not have an education system that invites business and industry to seek us out.

We cannot afford to continue in the 21st century as we have in centuries past when so many were left behind. As citizens we can have the leadership that we demand. As long as we allow our leaders to give us substandard leadership, then it will continue. When we decide as a community that we deserve better than we are getting, then we will seek ways to make changes.

I continue to find it difficult to understand the ways in which our school board is conducting the people’s business. Perhaps it has forgotten that it is the people’s business and to some extent it seems as if, we the people, have forgotten as well.

I would like to see the people of this county stand together and tell our school board to learn about servant leadership and to get on a better track or to leave this work to others who will take the people’s business seriously.

This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at

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