Servant Leadership and School Crisis Management

Servant Leadership and School Crisis Management

Gregory Geer (Coastal Carolina University, USA) and Howard V. Coleman (Coastal Carolina University, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5840-0.ch006
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In today's world, public school leaders are often called upon to deal with tragedies that include suicides, homicides, and accidental deaths. When these incidents occur in small school districts, the roles and responsibilities of school personnel become those of counselors and civic leaders. This chapter presents a case study about the experiences of a school superintendent practicing servant leadership to help heal a small community when dealing with the accidental deaths of a local family. The superintendent's responses to the tragedy are based upon the foundations of servant leadership that include empathy, mental models, reflection, self-awareness, emotional healing, listening, commitment, and community building (Goen, 2009; Spears, 2004; Greenleaf, 1977). Servant leadership practices help guide educational leaders in providing support for students, teachers, and parents in school crises.
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Superintendents who practice servant leadership combine their motivation to lead with a strong desire to serve (Dierendonck, 2011) and focus on the needs of their stakeholders (Schneider & George, 2011; Williamson, 2008). Servant leadership begins with a philosophy, belief and attitude to serve others and then implements caring practices, actions and structures to make it happen (Page, 2004). A key component of servant leadership is an emotional healing dimension that is operationally defined as showing sensitivity and understanding for others’ concerns (Liden, 2008).

Servant leadership’s emotional healing dimension is considered to be a powerful and effective force in supporting people through crisis and tragedy. Greenleaf emphasizes the importance of establishing a caring compact between the servant leader and those he or she is leading (1970, p. 7). This emotional influence dimension has an ethical component relative to the leader’s role in helping followers deal with trauma and difficult situations (Heifetz, 1994; Burns, 1978).

The emotional, caring dimension of servant leadership is supported by needs theorists who state that basic needs must be met before individuals can move forward to higher levels of awareness and self-control (McClelland, 1987; Murray, H. A. & Kluckhohn, 1953; Maslow, 1943). Servant leaders are attentive to the needs of their followers and committed to helping them to succeed. Servant leaders realize the importance of developing relationships with their followers and the impact of aligning these relationships with the goals and objectives of the organization (Depree, 1989).

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