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“Titles mean nothing. The one with a servant’s heart is the leader.”

| Tuesday, August 21, 2018

“Titles mean nothing. The one with a servant’s heart is the leader.”

As I grew up going to Mass as a Catholic kid, several church songs have stayed with me throughout my life and continue to reveal their significance. No, it’s not Canticle of the Turning, although that banger certainly holds its own merits. This song is slower and more reflective. It’s called “The Servant Song,” and I think it perfectly applies to a great need we have in each and every one of our communities, big and small: the need for servant leadership.

Over the past couple weeks for RA training, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a servant leadership, and just how hard it is to live it out. We have amazing examples throughout history of servant leadership to look to, such as St. Andre Bessette, but translating those ideals to our everyday lives — especially within a period of individual drive and accomplishment that the college experience often fosters — can be a great and daunting challenge. Yet, a servant leader is exactly what you and I are called to be this year.

My fellow Resident Assistants and I officially have our titles, but that in and of itself means nothing here and now. We have to put our role into practice, and be a servant to those in our sections and in our residence halls, even and especially when it may be inconvenient. This goes for any leadership role. I can call myself the Sports Editor at The Observer all I want, but if I’m not constantly looking out for our writing and production staff and making sure their needs are met, then my leadership will be found lacking. That’s a hard thought, and that’s the point. Servant leadership isn’t easy: it takes practice, especially when it comes to self-denial.

But here’s the main point of all this: everybody can be great and can be a leader, because everybody can serve. It’s not just a select few that are called to be servant leaders on Notre Dame’s campus, but rather we all are within our own unique circumstances. Within Stanford Hall and among my friend groups, I’ve witnessed countless acts of servant leadership, and am a firm believer in its ability to cultivate itself and flourish within a given community.

So what does this “servant leadership” look like? For answers, we can turn to “The Servant Song.” Here as students of Notre Dame, we have more commonalities than differences. We all have difficult schedules and many responsibilities. We have stress and we have fun. Especially as one enters senior year, they’ve experienced most if not all the ins and outs of the Notre Dame experience and campus culture. Recognizing that we oftentimes have similar fears, joys and overall experiences can allow us to enter into a relationship of equality, where service becomes manifested. Perhaps it manifests itself in a simple conversation with an individual who often looks lonely in the hall or at the dining hall. Maybe it grows when you step up and take on an important responsibility for your organization. Or perhaps it simply appears when you take time out of your day to share in your friend’s joy of getting a good test score. We are all pilgrims on this journey through our years at Notre Dame, and we’re here to help each other each and every day, through the good times and the bad.

So this 2018-19 academic year, consider making a commitment to be a servant leader to the people around you, whether that occurs in your residence hall, your off-campus house, your classroom or your friend group. With the willingness to serve others and likewise to be served by them in return, our communities flourish as we educate not only our minds but our hearts as well.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Joe Everett

Joe is a senior PLS major and hails from the thriving metropolis of South Bend, IN. In addition to serving as Sports Editor at The Observer, Joe is a RA in Stanford Hall and a past champion of the Observer's Fantasy Football league.

Contact Joe