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Section 2. Servant Leadership: Accepting and Maintaining the Call of Service

Tool 1: Personal Plan for Learning and Serving

The Personal Plan for Learning and Serving is a dynamic, living document to guide learning and service. Completing this guide can help you discern what matters to you, what your particular gifts are and to what ends they can be directed, and how to enhance your abilities to use them in serving others. As part of an ongoing process of reflection, it can and should be reviewed and revised periodically.

Tool 2: Active listening

As we come to understand ourselves and our relationships with others better, we rediscover that "communication is not just saying words; it is creating true understanding." Active listening is an important skill in that process. Chances are that those who influence us most are powerful listeners. Whether instinctively or through practice, they have developed the skill of empathy. Special thanks goes to the Center for Rural Studies for granting us permission to use this activity.

Use the directions that follow to practice some of these basic active listening skills:

  • Attending Skills (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Questions, Reflections, Summarization
  • Skills of Self-expression: "1-2-3 Pattern"
  • Practice Session on Effective Confrontation

The group should be divided into subgroups of three. There will be three roles in each subgroup: speaker, listener, and observer. Everyone will take each role once in this practice, so divide into your subgroup and decide who is going to take which role first.


Objective - The point of the practice session is to give each person the opportunity to learn how to use verbal and non-verbal minimal encouragers and become a better listener.

To the speaker - Your task is to talk about something that is important to you: your job, your family, a decision, or a question. The practice will be more helpful if you talk about something you really care about, although role-playing is possible. You may find yourself in the midst of discussing something important when the allotted time runs out. If this happens, you could make an agreement with the person listening to carry on later, after work or during a break.

To the listener - Your task is to practice the skills of the session: eye contact, body language, silences, and verbal minimal encouragers. Don't panic! Just concentrate on following the speaker's train of thought. Try to limit your responses to the skills discussed in this session.

To the observer - Your task is to observe the listener's verbal and non-verbal skills. Observe and count only as many behaviors (eye contact, body posture, verbal minimal encouragers, topic jumps) as you can manage and still be relatively accurate.


The first speaker will talk with the listener for three or four minutes. The listener will then discuss the listening experience with the two other members of the subgroup. (To the listener: What was comfortable? What was difficult? Did you stay with the speaker?) Then the speaker will share his or her feelings about the listener's listening. (To the speaker: Did you feel listened to? Was it helpful? Did the listener have any habits you found distracting?) The observer will then share observations. This sharing process should take about three or four minutes.

Now everyone change places. Have the listener become the speaker, the speaker the observer, and the observer the listener. Go through the five minutes of talking and listening and five minutes of exchanging remarks twice more so that each person takes each role once. The entire practice session should take about 25 minutes.

When you are finished, form a large group. Your facilitator will help you share your practice experiences. How are these skills relevant to your work? Where else would they be useful? Go around the group, so that the participants have a chance to share at least one thing they have learned about themselves in this practice session.

The following exercises discuss the principles of leadership and conflict resolution. They look at time management and team building. They are situational-type exercises to let people evaluate what to do in the presented situations.

Tool 3: Team building

Create a situation based on a school board meeting. Chose random names for the characters. In this fictitious case, one of the leading employees in the school district called a meeting about a particular change they wanted to make. The change is controversial and is causing a bit of conflict in the community. Some opposed the change and some thought it was a good idea. So, the meeting is scheduled to see how folks feel about the proposed change. All the parents came to the meeting but the individual who called the meeting was late. That created hostility right off, coupled with the conflict that was already in the air. When this individual walked in, he was rattled to start with because he was late and knew he would meet a hostile audience, and the night didn't go very well. Create a script on the addressed issues, how the parents treated those issues and how the school representative treated those issues.

Divide the group into two sides. One representing the school district, the other representing the parents. This will help look at it from both perspectives. Bring the groups back into a larger group and discuss the conflict resolution process. Talk about how the conflict could have been solved better.

Here are some questions to help the discussion:

  • What did your group think?
  • What suggestions did you make?
  • You know what were some of the issues here?
  • What are some of the things that you think could have been done differently and why?
  • What would have been a better approach?
  • What could that official have done as a leader?
  • How could he have done things that would have resolved some conflicts?
  • How could he have made everybody feel a little bit better when they got there?
  • What would you do in a situation like that?
  • What might a servant-leader have done?
  • Did that individual act like as a servant-leader?
  • How the individual could have handled the situation better?

Tool 4: Tower of Babel

This exercise is called the Tower of Babel, and it's a case on communication. It gets participants excited and helps them learn the importance of including others. Gather a small group and distribute sheets containing different roles. The participants cannot look or talk to anybody else. Each role sheet has very specific instructions such as "all you can do is speak Spanish," "all you can do is be sarcastic and negative." You know that everyone has a different role, but the students don't know what the others' roles are. One of them gets a role that says, "you are the leader. You must communicate to your group without talking that they have to build the tallest tower they can that will support a book on top of it when they finish. They can't talk and they can't write, unless specified in their role sheet. They have to find some way to communicate and there are all different dynamics going on. One of them is being really sarcastic, another one is being really positive, the other one can only babble, another one only speaks French, another one is blind, another one is paraplegic. See if the leader tries to include everybody.

When the activity is completed, talk about it in the group. Sometimes the group that had the least communication will have the smallest, sloppiest tower. These are exaggerated handicaps but everybody has strengths and weaknesses and if you're communicating you need to find ways to let everybody participate and consider everybody's thoughts and ideas. Stress the importance of getting everyone's input because they may have some very important things to say and great ideas. Stress the importance of inclusion. Talk about some of the problems that they had with communication. Did they even realize that that was a problem?