Servant leadership: You’ll need deep courage and love

Members of the Goshen College President’s Cabinet serve 125th anniversary cake and ice cream at the All-Employee Retreat in August 2019.

This year as we focus on the core value of servant leadership, I would suggest that courage and love are two vital ingredients. There is no single definition of leadership, but here is a good one:

“A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.”

Brené Brown, 2018

Last week in opening convocation, I asked: What is the potential that you want to develop? 

Your answer might arise from something you love to do. It might arise from a longing for things to be different, a holy dissatisfaction with the way things are. Or, in the more vivid words of teacher, author and activist Parker Palmer, because you see the tragic gap between the way things are, and the way that things could be. You can listen to Parker explain what he means by the tragic gap here:

When we speak of leadership, it is important to understand that even seemingly small acts of leadership can have a large collective impact.

Kennard Martin, a Goshen College groundskeeper from 1961-2019

Take for example the life of Kennard Martin, GC’s longest serving employee, who died just last week. In fact, this week would have marked the 58th anniversary of Kennard’s employment in our groundskeeping team. That means that Kennard was mowing grass, moving snow and fixing things for 46% of our 125-year history!

Thank you Kennard for having been a model of true servant leadership to us for so many years! You will be dearly missed here.

Kennard took responsibility for the potential, “to make things safe and beautiful for the campus.” Craig Johnson, the Physical Plant grounds supervisor who worked with Kennard for more than 20 years, said in 2011, “He’s a wealth of knowledge and we go to him whenever we don’t know how to handle a situation.”

Kennard was motivated by the love of his work. “I love the changing of the seasons and the energy student activity brings on campus,” he said. One of the marks of servant leadership is that love is at the root of it.

So, what is the potential that you want to develop?

Rebecca Stoltzfus