Student-Servant Leadership Approach

August 9, 2021

Reinforcing Lifelong Learning & Creating an Optimal Facilitating Environment

The main goal of educational entities is to develop and nurture students, which differs from that of a typical corporation. Therefore, the standard successful leadership approaches must be modified and adapted to meet these goals and take into account not only the students, but facilitators and parents as well.

Strong leaders in the educational space are becoming scarcer and the core mission to develop the next generation of 21-st century leaders is fading. A common theme is emerging where education is either underfunded or solely focused on test scores or quantifiable indicators of success. Without a framework and training, some teachers are lacking the necessary tools to lead their students. As a result, the trust in teachers and the educational system is eroding and the 21st century lifelong learning skills and traits of students are being neglected.

Many leaders in education are currently struggling against the rigid procedures and systems that govern education, but are facing significant barriers without the right tools to develop their own team. This article focuses on the student-servant leadership approach that helps rethink how educators can lead in a more effective way.

The Student-Servant Leader

A student-servant leader leads by serving others. In other words, student-servant leaders place the interests and needs of their facilitators and students ahead of their own self-interests and needs. Some core values that these leaders have in common are the development of their facilitators and students, building their communities, acting authentically, and sharing power.

There are three major categories of educational leaders: principals and vice principals leading facilitators, facilitators leading students, and students, who are future leaders leading the next generation and their own life to continuous success.

What should educational leaders do?

Educational leaders must lead by example through attitude and action, develop clear systems of communication, share policies and procedures to ensure all staff, facilitators, and students are aligned, and determine clear roles throughout the community. Most importantly, principals must empower and support their facilitators and ensure they are properly trained. in order for them to in turn do the same for their students.

Main Characteristics of Student-Servant Leaders

Principals – Open-Door Policy  

The Open-Door Policy is a useful tool to create a proper educational environment. Principals or leaders in education must get rid of all aspects of bureaucracy and favoritism. The key to success is establishing a culture where the staff, facilitators, and students feel that they are also leaders and that they belong to and have pride in their school. Unfortunately, many educational leaders are fighting double-sided wars. They are constantly juggling the implementation of their mission and vision with the management of governing bodies that lean towards a strict set of rules and procedures and quantifiable results over the student-leadership approach and actual development of leaders. The Open-Door Policy is the first step towards breaking through this bureaucratic structure. The policy creates an environment of leading by example and promotes freedom of communication and feedback as well as direct interactions with all members of the school to make sure everyone feels that they have a voice. The environment that this creates is one that encourages full buy-in from all members of the community.

Principals – Compassionate Problem Solving

It is important that principals and vice principals develop the active listening skills needed to listen carefully to their facilitators’ problems especially around the learning environment and to help solve them or at least create a road map to a solution. Furthermore, facilitators must reach the hearts of their students in order to reach their minds. Thus, principals must develop and help their facilitators the ability to differentiate by emotion by showing compassion and taking the time to fully understand the problem, which is typically the source of their academic or behavioral struggles.

Principals – Commitment to the Growth of Others

Principals and vice principals must prove daily to all their facilitators that their paramount commitment is towards the WE and not towards the I. They must commit themselves to professionally develop their facilitators and make sure that they are growing within their mission of education for the sake of the team and the students.  The moment the facilitators feel that the main aim of their principal is the growth of his/her job title and bureaucratic apogee, they will begin to lose trust in the mission/vision of the school.

Principals – Awareness and Foresight

Principals and vice principals should try to continue to develop themselves professionally especially around the newest and most effective aspects of facilitating and curricula. By becoming aware of the latest pedagogical approaches, they can have the awareness to anticipate future problems and to establish preventive strategies. It is always highly recommended that principals are the prominent workshop leaders of their schools, conducting the core of the professional development sessions for their staff and facilitators.

Facilitators as Student-Servant Leaders

Facilitators must also develop these student-servant leadership qualities and:

  • Accept and respect the students (no academic progress will be made if the student’s social and emotional aspect is ignored) – Differentiation by Emotion.
  • Hold high expectations for all students.
  • Understand their students and support them accordingly.
  • Provide clear guidelines and expectations.
  • Use differentiated and personalized instructions (real-life based education, One Subject Called Knowledge Approach).
  • Use a multi-sensory approach.
  • Provide constructive, positive, and specific, measurable, and timely feedback (CMT Feedback).
  • Ensure that the students feel that they are leading with them by opening up communication channels and providing opportunities for them to take charge of their own education.
  • Facilitate and guide the students toward inquiry and acquisition of knowledge and skills instead of teaching and lecturing


Principals, vice-principals, staff and, facilitators must genuinely understand and reinforce the correlation between the values and approaches of educational leaders and the learning outcomes of the future leaders (students). Furthermore, students should be made aware that they are leading their own life and the facilitators are just there to help guide them.

Student-Servant Leadership Style and Approach Framework:   

In order to establish the student servant leadership approach:  

  • Educational Leaders must make sure that teachers facilitate the inquiry and acquisition of knowledge and skills within a lifelong learning / facilitating student-centered and differentiated environment.
  • Educational Leaders must ensure that their school’s professional learning community reached the Pinnacle level of leadership of John C. Maxwell’s five levels of leadershipwhere RESPECT is the leading key player.
  • Facilitators must conduct collaborative planning sessions with students and sometimes with parents to prepare collaboratively all needed directorial resources. Principals must lead those sessions where students are leading their journey of success through learning.
  • Educational Leaders must lead the curriculum design process and transform the standards-based OVERT curriculum to a multi-layered curriculum where all different horizons affecting students’ lifelong learning process are tackled and related to their learning outcomes.
  • Educational Leaders must ensure that the benchmark of horizontal integration is reached by following and implementing the ONE SUBJECT CALLED KNOWLEDGE APPROACH.
  • Educational Leaders must generate primarily formative-based assessment means and strategies and must make that the Personality/Leadership traits of the students form a crucial part of the students’ grading repartition.
  • Educational Leaders must ensure that Parent-School Mutual Partnership and Community Involvement layers are crucial and operational layers within the Multi-Layered Curricular Approach. The community and the parents must feel that they are leading with the principals, facilitators, and students to establish its eternal legacy within the sacred mission of education.


The Final Wild Call

Dear Leaders in Education,

Let us leave our fears behind and initiate the eternal journey of our schools’ sacred mission of education to nurture the 21st-century leaders to be ready for today and ready for tomorrow.

Let us ensure that all staff, facilitators, parents, and students are aligned with the ultimate mission of education.

Let us break down the walls of conventional styles of leadership.

Let us create our own style of leadership serving the mission and not the other way around.

Let us mold our flexible leadership style to serve better the mission, the dream, and the legacy of our school.

Let us create leaders believing in this dream.

Let us get rid of all routines and procedures that create a destructive dichotomous environment.

Let us lead for the eternal mission of education within the student-servant leadership framework.


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4 Replies to “Student-Servant Leadership Approach”

  • Ilham Hashem says:

    I believe that this article says it all . I believe that the the student servant model is the perfect way to make sure that you have correct foundations of a humble and safe Facilitating Environment.

  • Derek Griffin says:

    While supporting everything in this article, I wonder whether the goal of an educational institution “differs from that of a typical corporation (lines 1)? Servant leadership has been around in the corporate world since at least the 1970s, and long before that in the teaching of most religious philosophies, from the founder of Taoism who said, “The great leader is he who the people say, We did it ourselves”, to Jesus who said, “I have come to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28). Wikipedia has a good summary of the thinking behind Servant Leadership ( And I agree: servant leadership is never more applicable than in education.

  • Alexander Pahany says:

    Excellent analysis; I am particularly pleased with the following: “Educational Leaders must make sure that teachers facilitate the inquiry and acquisition of knowledge and skills within a lifelong learning / facilitating student-centered and differentiated environment.” This is such an important aspect of education, and it is this method that empowers our students to become leaders themselves.

  • Zeina Abimosleh says:

    An amazing article that should be taught and shared with the biggest audience possible . This is a gem in the education field . Thank you for sharing !

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