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The Servant Leader: A PTC Pearl of Wisdom

By Janine Stegall

I have been an educator for 16 years. I spent over a decade in Fairfax County, Virginia, as a master teacher working in the primary years of general and special education. Around the 12th year of my career, however, I lost my joy at work and found that my love for teaching and working with students and parents was slipping away. I decided to look for other leadership opportunities and applied for jobs teaching overseas. I soon realized that the part of my professional development I was missing centered on an approach to leadership called “servant leadership.”
A servant leader is a servant first. She enriches the lives of other individuals. She builds better organizations. A servant leader creates a more caring environment. I found I could identify with these traits.
After winter break, I took a course on servant leadership promoting the philosophies of Robert Greenleaf and, more recently, Ken Blanchard. I used the strengths from the StrengthsFinder assessment I had taken earlier in my career to create five core non-negotiable values and beliefs. From these, I wrote my leadership philosophy and reflected on why, what, who, whether, and how in relation to the servant leadership attributes I wanted to clearly embody as a leader.
For starters, I wanted to foster my ability to create opportunities for others to make connections. I strove to nurture a level of trust with others by demonstrating my dependability. Lastly, I sought to focus on helping others by being in the present moment with them as I listened to their thoughts and ideas. My experiences have nurtured in me seeds of empathy, openness, compassion, resilience, persistence, and grit.
We should be able to define our own moral purpose, understand the change process, be good at building meaningful relationships, be able to turn information into knowledge, and embrace the opportunities of tension to rise to the next level of understanding. We should be able to do this while at the same time remaining energetic, enthusiastic, and hopeful.
This is what brought me to the Principals’ Training Center (PTC). It has been a great experience in developing the servant leadership attributes that I strive to embody. Here, in this oasis, leaders have come together for a common purpose. In just a few days, I have gained a renewed sense of hope about the level of support out there for me and others brave enough to take this journey into the world of international education.
Today, I have found hope and joy again by doing things outside of myself. My pearl of wisdom is to consider including in your professional development tool kit something like servant leadership. It will allow you to nurture the part of you that wants to serve others. And hopefully, as it did for me, it will bring you joy at work.
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.” -Robert K. Greenleaf (
Blanchard, Ken. “Servant Leadership.” Published November 15, 2012.

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