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Love in Leadership

Love is in the air. Spring. Hearts. Cupids. Young love. Old love.

For such a short month, February really packs a punch, centered around Valentine’s Day, which is welcomed and dreaded at the same time. When everything aligns and we are remembered with flowers and tokens of another’s affection, life is grand! However, when the day passes without so much as a text to let us know we are remembered? Ugh, February! Ugh, love!

But wait. Really, is that what love is?

And what does love have to do with yearbook work?

As wonderful as sharing Valentines may be, it may hide how important it is to have a depth of understanding about the nature of love. There are many forms that love takes: the love of parents for their children, the love between siblings, tight bonds of friendship, compassion for others, and the feelings shared between loving partners. We learn that love can be comforting and assuring. And when a loss is experienced, love can hurt.

Yes, this is all true, but what does this have to do with yearbook work?

In my class, love had to do with learning to ”meet each other where we are” as well as something called Servant Leadership. To shed some light on this, I’d like to use 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 from The Message.

Love never gives up.

Gentle persistence and timing are important when you are serious about meeting people where they are. If you have damaged a relationship with a word or action, or if someone is shut down and you don’t understand why, gentle conversations — along with enough time for the conversations to sink in — are appropriate. Checking in with a student, and letting them know they can count on you, matters. Apologizing when necessary is a sign of respect. Smiling and inviting student participation offers the assurance of a safe environment. Holding the space for all voices to be heard is meaningful beyond measure. Patience, accountability and responsibility are skills to be taught and practiced. Redirecting and inviting a student to get back on track may be humbling for them and so must be treated with sensitivity and empathy, because we know that there but for the Grace of God go many of us. This kind of grace goes a long way.

Advisers want to model this kind of support as they train their student leadership team. There is a name for this kind of leadership: Servant Leadership. Robert K. Greenleaf, a retired AT&T administrator, wrote an essay, The Servant as Leader, in 1970. He saw a growing need for a different kind of leader in the world – one who actively sought to build a better society for all.

"Holding the space for all voices to be heard is meaningful beyond measure."

The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?[1]

I love this. The leader asks of herself, do those served grow as people; are they healthier, wiser, able to initiate, and go beyond expectations?

John Correlli of Teamgantt distilled ten characteristics of a Servant as Leader.[2] I am going to weave the balance of the 1 Corinthians 13 passage through six of those characteristics. Again, these are teachable skills. These can be practiced in the classroom by adviser and student leadership alike.

Love cares more for others than for self.

The Servant as Leader characteristics of Listening, Empathy, and Building Community are grounded in a love that cares for others beyond the self. Building Community creates a safe space in which people are free to grow and collaborate, to disagree for the sake of broadening viewpoints and perspectives, to bring value and meaning to the whole, and to risk creating something new and vital. Listening, truly opening yourself to another, creates space for that person to be heard. Being heard matters to all of us. It undergirds dignity and is the groundwork of respect. Empathy is the partner to listening. While Listening invites us to imagine ourselves to see from another’s perspective and to feel another’s hurts or joys, Empathy ignites compassion. If we can see ourselves in another, we can act on behalf of the other.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Self-awareness, another Servant as Leader characteristic, is a process. A courageous look at yourself to determine where you are at any given moment is the basis of Self-awareness. Are you being your true self? We all have gifts and talents and deficits, and this very humanness, these unique qualities that make us, is sufficient. Recognizing that we do not have to be all things to everyone, and knowing when to bring others into the work to balance our deficits, is a grace that eases the work for everyone.

Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel.

Conversely, thinking we have to be perfect and then expecting that from others causes difficulties beyond measure. There are leaders who make the ground shake as they walk through a room, who talk through people and whose temper makes employees invisible. This destructive behavior makes not only the workplace but — because we are whole beings whose work lives affect our home lives — even the homes of each colleague miserable. Leaders who keep score or sabotage co-workers or intimidate others into cooperation might soon find a rebellion on their hands!

This doesn’t mean you will be able to create a place without conflict; nor should you want to. In fact, creative places where tensions exist are healthy places. The challenge is to channel those conflicts and differences into productive outcomes. When conflict does occur, it should be met with constructive mediation strategies.

Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth; puts up with anything…

Conflict may become so emotionally charged that Healing, another Servant as Leader characteristic, must take place. As with any family, a group working together will have moments that will test the boundaries and limits of the group’s dynamics. Conflict resolution is an essential process that offers a respectful platform for all parties to be heard. Listening and Empathy are employed and, because of Community Building, everyone concerned understands that Healing is the ultimate goal. Privacy is vital. Trust is a deep and abiding consideration for a successful conclusion. Practicing forgiveness and making amends are life skills that are vital to the Healing process.

Love trusts God always, always looks for the best, and never looks back.

Once the goal of Healing has been achieved, it is done. Grudges are not held, score is not kept, doubts are put away, and old failures and transgressions are not dug up.

Love keeps going to the end.

A final characteristic of a Servant as Leader is a Commitment to the Growth of People. A Servant as Leader believes in a growth mindset and is open to the potential, capacities and surprises that are inherent in growth. Growth occurs best in an environment that nurtures curiosity and enjoys the success of each individual, in coordination with the needs of the yearbook project. The Servant as Leader engages in self-reflection and creates opportunities for co-workers to do the same. Fundamentally understanding patterns that emerge from such inventories (such as the MBTI) can help design the next move forward together.

Love never dies.

Intentionally equipping young people to be good leaders is one of the gifts teachers offer the future. Yearbook classes offer students one of the most direct life-practices of leadership. It helps students discern and integrate the many differences of the human family. It plants the seeds of compassionate care of others.

I read the obituary of a former teacher of mine today. He was a lovely man and touched the lives of hundreds of people. Former students reached out to leave messages of love, care for his family, and indebtedness. Yes, they spoke of being in his debt, for his ability to awaken their minds, hearts, and spirits. He taught as a servant leader. He invited us to share in that ideal. Many of us, his former students, did just that, and we have reached out to touch others, and so it goes on and on.

As you create your program of student leadership, please feel free to contact United Yearbook Printing. We are here to support you in any way we can.

[1] Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. (n.d.). The Servant As Leader. RSS. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from

[2] Correlli, J. (2021, August 6). The 10 principles of servant leadership: Teamgantt. RSS. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from

United Yearbook offers resources, curriculum, and on-site workshops on this and other topics. To learn more, contact us at or visit our website at


Miss Lucy McHugh comes to United Yearbook Printing via a 39-year career in public and private school education. She was a former yearbook adviser at Xavier College Preparatory High School. She earned a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska in 2000. And in 2014 earned a Certificate in Catholic School Leadership from Loyola Marymount University. Lucy taught K-12 Art and was awarded the 2001 Nebraska Art Teacher of the Year, and in 2010 she was awarded Nebraska Elementary Art Teacher of the Year. Most recently Lucy was awarded the 2017 CA High School Art Teacher of the Year.


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