Making a Difference: Servant Leadership in the Online Classroom
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: SERVANT
LEADERSHIP IN THE ONLINE
Andree C. Swanson, EdD
Lora L. Reed, PhD
Online faculty members are not Sages on the Stage in the
Effective faculty are true guides on the side, facilitators of learning.
Effective online faculty are encouragers of learners who are often
isolated and feeling alone on the other side of the computer.
At their finest, effective online faculty
members are true servant leaders sharing
the Robert Greenleaf’s vision of servant
leadership to provide student-centered
teachable opportunities in the virtual
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
“Servant leadership makes a difference. It might not be the quickest,
safest, and simplest approach to teaching, but it is effective” (p. 5).
Our goal is to demonstrate how you can make a difference using a
servant leadership approach in the classroom.
NO LITERATURE ON THE
Servant leadership and the field of education have been
studied in the past; however, servant leadership as a
desired form of leadership in the field of online learning has
not been studied.
Patterson (2003) stated, “By empowering followers, servant leaders are
allowing them freedom to proceed toward their goals, helping them make
Online faculty are empowered to help their students.
CONTINUED HELP FOR
Patterson (2003) states that "the focus of the leaders is on followers and
his/her behaviors and attitudes are congruent with this follower focus."
Servant leadership is a virtuous theory focusing on leading people who have
good intentions, high values, and are morally sound.
A MODEL FOR ONLINE
Niewold (2007) stated, "Servant leadership in its secular form is
based on non-Christian secular and religious ideas" (p. 1).
For these reasons, Servant Leadership appears to be a model for the
effective, successful online faculty member.
FOLLOWER BEFORE GREED
A servant leader is one that puts
the follower first before profit and
A popular style of leadership is
the transformational leader who
does not put the followers first but
the organization has priority.
Students before Profit
"Note that the focus in servant
Servant leadership is an authentic
leader is to benefit the follower, even
at the expense of the organization,
which is in contrast to
Transformational leadership that has
a focus on benefiting the
organization (Bass, 2000)" (Winston,
form of leadership that can be
modeled by those who strive to put
others before their own goals.
THE INCUBATOR IDEA
Image(s) from Microsoft Clip Art.
FACULTY AS LEADERS
If faculty do model Greenleaf’s vision, are online faculty who model servant
leadership in the classroom and other interactions with learners assisting in
Do faculty model the type of leadership that is conducive to innovative
Do they create trust and meaningful relationships that sustain both student
and faculty as continuous learners?
Can the concept that faculty as servant leaders as a method
of enhancing online learning and especially leader
development be tested?
NOW IS THE TIME
Student engagement, as a challenge that affects leaders and would be
leaders becomes a more important consideration for academic institutions in
a time of unprecedented technological change, as well as amidst leadership
crises the likes of which Greenleaf (1978, 1986) attempted to caution society
If there was ever a time when Servant Leadership was needed, some say
that time is now on a variety of levels.