Becoming a leader people want to follow

Six keys to being a servant leader – Dr. Debra Arfsten, PhD.

Faculty of Religion Studies´s students attended a lecture of Dr. Debra Arfsten, PhD. how to become an ideal leader for other people. Dr. Arfsten presented six points of servant leadership.

We heard a definition of a leader and what does it mean to become a leader at the beginning of the lecture. “The interesting point for me was that we can find or meet a leader in every surrounding we live in, for example at home, at school or in campus”, said Ladislava, the student of Religion teaching study program at the Faculty of Religion studies, University in Zilina (Note – Faculty of Religion studies is branch of CCE; it provides daily education for students; CCE provides the same education in its weekend study programs).  

Dr. Arfsten presented an example of Jesus as a servant leader to show that leadership begun in the Bible and in the life of Jesus. Later we were presented six points of servant leadership by Mr. Robert Greenleaf, one of the “GURU” of servant leadership. Mr. Greenleaf saw these constructs of servant leadership: valuing people, developing people, building community, displaying authenticity, providing leadership and sharing leadership. “These six examples I find to be really useful and it opened my eyes in the way relationships can be improved using these simple little things. I mean not only labor relations but all relations – at home, at school, at work, in society, anywhere we move”, said student and prospective teacher of religion, Mária.

  • Valuing people was the first points of servant leadership. It means to believe in people, to serve the needs of others first and receptive non-judgmental listening. It is the attitude that first a leader wants to help others than to help its self.
  • Developing people is providing opportunities for learning and growth, modeling appropriate behavior and building up others through encouragement and affirmation. We are asked to use expressions like: Great job, nice work, Thank you. To make people feel they are doing well and to not to be afraid.
  • Building community means to build strong personal relationships, to value the differences of others. It is very important because we need to know people we work with, we must learn to collaborate with others, to get along well with people we might not associate with, i.e. different gender or ethnicity.
  • Displaying authenticity is being open and accountable to others and maintaining integrity and trust. To be open means that we are willing to learn from others, to apologize for mistakes we might have done, to share our feelings.
  • Providing leadership or envisioning the future. A leader needs to be creative, to be able to create a vision. A leader is the one who should be taking initiative and has to clarify goals of the work in a group of people.
  • Sharing leadership means that although a leader sets the vision, it is not only the leader who is going to reach them. We are going to reach them as a team and with the leader offering support. A leader shares power and control. If a leader shares power with others it does not mean he/she loses power, but it makes leaders trust their own followers. In fact sharing leadership makes a leader and team becomes stronger and stronger. Giving affirmation and encouragement is very important here.

At the end of the lecture some advantages of servant leadership were introduced. For example:

strong loyalty to organization
mutual ownership
positive working environment of respect and care for one another
empowering others to be servant leaders in their own setting
create a serving culture

“I really liked this lecture it was very interesting. I learned some new information and now I know how to become a leader in my future class”, said student Ladislava. “What was most interesting for me was, that I realized that we can be servant leaders in any relations not just at work. I myself can be a servant leader in the class, and also in other different places, anywhere”, mentioned student Mária.

The fact that servant leadership is more and more popular nowadays, it is researched more, books written about it, and an overall special interest in it. Therefore we are very thankful for information from this field of ministry. It moves us personally and it moves also our society, our thinking forward, etc. We learn how to be more opened, friendly and at the same time professional in different relationships and it shows that it is not important to be autocratic, domineering and intimidating to be a good leader. The real opposite is true. If we show empathy, interest about others, if we know how to communicate and build trust  - it makes a leader a servant leader.

Please consider supporting the work of faculty members (American and/or English teachers from the Lutheran Academy or CCE’s bilingual high school or people invited by Faculty of Religion studies in Žilina) with a monthly gift. Want to learn more? Contact our Director of Development, Sisa Schudichova at
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