Servant Leadership

In the tradition of the Sisters of Saint Joseph the motto “serve the dear neighbor” is the way by which they live their lives as servant leaders and what drives their passion and desire to help the community through their ministry. Being part of the St. Joseph Worker volunteer program, I learned that phrase and have come to use it more often as I label my work and life during my year of service. I learned about the lifestyle of serving the dear neighbor, and realized that I have already been doing this kind of work throughout my years of involvement in my community, at home, and school. The only difference is that I now see my social justice work through the spiritual lens that comes with the phrase “dear neighbor.” I label this type of work  “Servant Leadership:” where one puts the needs of others first whilst empowering them to develop their own talents and skills through education and encouragement. In 1970 Robert K. Greenleaf coined this idea of “The Servant as Leader” in his essay stating “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead….A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.” I have always seen myself as a servant leader for the empowerment and betterment of my own life, my family, community, and people. The work I have done to help those less fortunate and empower them to have their own voice and advocate for issues that affect them not only has changed their lives, but has also influenced my life and deepened my passion for working for the rights and dignity of human beings and the option for the poor. This philosophy of servant leadership is found in scripture

“42 Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be servant of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” Mark 10:42-45

Doing a year of service in the community through SJW, I have been able to further my passion for social justice through my work and my spirituality. I am able to align my desire for a better world with my religious beliefs and get rewarded everyday with the kind and gracious words of thank you and appreciation for my help from the tenants I see and speak to every day. Although their words of gratitude are great to receive, I am humbled every day by their desire and willingness to persevere and not allow themselves to be trampled on by slumlords who take advantage of their vulnerable state. My tenants are people who left everything behind: material possessions, loved ones, and beloved country in order to seek a better life for themselves and their families. They are brave and courages people, and it is my pleasure to lend an ear and a hand in their process of bettering their living situations. I am grateful to have found a motto that fits my idea of being a servant leader and see those I help through an endearing lens as my equals because as Mahatma Gandhi stated “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

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