"When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice." ~ Cherokee

Servant Leadership

The highest type of ruler is one of whose existence the people are barely aware. Next comes one whom they love and praise. Next comes one whom they fear. Next comes one whom they despise and defy.

The Sage is self-effacing and scanty of words. When his task is accomplished and things have been completed, all the people say, ‘We ourselves have achieved it!

 Tao Te Ching, attributed to Lao-Tzu


Recently, as founder of Dreams for Kids, I was asked to reflect upon my 25 years with the organization and list 10 leadership principles.

A lot has been written about leadership, and you do not have to look far to find a course, article or book on the subject. When I think of the most powerful and empowering form of leadership, servant leadership immediately comes to mind. A servant leader places the needs of others first and helps people develop to their maximum potential. I believe that every person is capable of being such a leader. And leadership from all of us has never been more important.

My take on the 10 most important principles of leadership:

  • Courage: It all begins with courage. We need the courage to follow a path that others may not see or even resist. We must be courageous in the face of obstacles, such as the opinions of others. Nothing is more important than our true path and leading others to their own.
  • Service: In the words of the Jewish leader Hillel, the Elder, “…If Only for Myself, Who Am I? If Not Now When?”  We need each other now more than ever before. My mentors taught me the invaluable lesson of the Circle of Giving, and I quote Sir Wilfred T Grenfell in my book Dreams for Kids, Changing the World…One Person at a Time, ” The service we render others is the rent we pay for our room on this earth.” Service is the essence of a fulfilled life. A servant leader is a leader among leaders.
  • Perseverance: There is something intrinsically fundamental about not giving up. As the tide goes out, it will come in again. In our darkest days, we must persevere to see the light again.
  • Character: Compromise of our ideals and values steals a part of our soul that we never get back. Be who you are and give what you have. Integrity is everything.
  • Empathy: We cannot know what they are enduring until we walk in another’s shoes and on their path. Be understanding. Be gracious.
  • Patience: What we want and need may not be ready when we want it. Greatness comes to those who are willing to wait.
  • Acceptance: The essence of a great leader is that he or she does not see others and the world through his or her lens but rather through the lens of understanding, tolerance, and possibility.
  • Humor: The fact is life is meant to be fun. Laugh more, frown less. Let go of the serious and enjoy this ride. People will notice. And they will follow.
  • Work: Nothing of substance is built in a day. Get up early and work late. Set an example that you will work harder and longer and be willing to stand last.
  • Vision: You must be willing to see what does not exist and believe in it with all your heart. And this takes a combination of all of the above.

As I continue to learn and grow, it is increasingly clear that we can all be leaders. We all have what it takes. But do we have the courage to see these qualities in ourselves? And will we permit ourselves to believe it and to act?

Are you ready to leap?