On September 15, Reginald Lewis from the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership spoke to freshman and sophomore students in Seton Hall University’s Buccino Leadership Institute. His talk focused on introducing the Greenleaf Center to the students, as well as to provide information about what servant leadership is and illustrate how humans can incorporate that into everything they do in life.
The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership is a nonprofit organization with a mission “to advance the awareness, understanding and practice of servant leadership by individuals and organizations,” according to the Greenleaf website. Founded by Robert K. Greenleaf, who says that a better society is “one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people,” this center strives to influence people to make society better through servant leadership development.
Reginald Lewis is dedicated to being a servant leader, specifically one that Greenleaf envisions will make society better. Before becoming the Center’s Executive Director, Lewis was appointed to the United States Commission on Presidential Scholars under President Barack Obama. He then transitioned to become the co-chair of one of five working groups for the implementation of the New Jersey Higher Education Plan under Governor Phil Murphy in 2019. Reginald Lewis received his undergraduate degree in Urban Studies from Morehouse College in Atalanta, Georgia and finished his master’s degree in social service administration at the University of Chicago.
According to Lewis, the challenges in today’s society stem from lack of leadership. Bad leadership creates bad problems. Lewis explained in his presentation that these societal problems are what pushes those involved in the Greenleaf Center to be better servant leaders and to create more servant leaders. To help the Buccino students grow as servant leaders, Lewis spoke about the characteristics that help build a good leader. A leader must be a good listener, empathetic, committed to the growth of others, and builders of community, Lewis explains. Listening to others in need and attempting to understand others’ emotions are important in the mission of understanding what the person one is helping is going through. One cannot be committed to the growth of others without being empathetic and a good listener; and a community cannot be built without being dedicated to the growth of others, Lewis shares.
So, what specifically is servant leadership? What is it about servant leadership that makes that leader stand out from others? Lewis explains that simply put, servant leaders put others first. Not only are they good leaders that listen and are empathetic, committed to the growth of others, and builders of community, but they prioritize the well-being of others before themselves. They do not lead for personal gain, but rather for the benefit of others. This is done through moral authority, organization, and a solution seeking mind.
Lewis then spoke about how to properly be a servant leader: by not only completing service actions but living a life that fulfills areas of both service and leadership. Being creative, actively learning, and learning to live with anxiety are key points that Lewis noted that allow one to properly become a servant leader.
Creativity allows one to produce unique solutions to problems which can make a better leader. Active learning creates open-mindedness and allows one to listen to others instead of only focusing on one’s own self and path is encouraged. Lewis explains that learning to live with anxiety may sound strange but is an important aspect of leadership to foster. Anxiety stems from being uncomfortable with the stress of daily life. However, discomfort stems from leaving one’s comfort zone, meaning that one is doing something right in the sense of seeking to make a change or impact. If anxiety comes from the stress of daily life, it is important to take time for oneself, Lewis asserts, but it is just as important to get used to the anxious feelings as to not allow them to keep someone from being a successful leader. By incorporating these lifestyle tips into one’s own daily routine, it allows one to naturally be a servant leader instead of working to “become” a servant leader.