Servant Leadership Informs Inclusion

Published Jul 20, 2020
By: LSS Staff

Racial injustices, such as the murder of George Floyd, often lead to discussions about equity, diversity and inclusion.


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How Servant-Leadership Informs Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
by Héctor Colón
June 19, 2020

How Servant-Leadership Informs Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Racial injustices, such as the murder of George Floyd, often lead to discussions about equity, diversity and inclusion. Well-intended business leaders change policies, develop affinity groups, and require training. Research literature demonstrates that these traditional workplace programs do not significantly achieve intended goals.

At Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS), we look to Servant-Leadership and Larry Spears’ ”Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders” for inspiration. This article offers ideas on how to enhance your program with five of these characteristics: Awareness, Listening, Healing, Empathy and Commitment to the Growth of people.

Awareness involves understanding individual strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and biases. The better you know yourself, the better you can foster meaningful connections with others. Self-awareness is foundational to authentic relationships requiring meaningful dialogue and a willingness to grow and change.

To create an environment that encourages awareness for others, self-reflect on your own personal behaviors and biases and make a commitment to learn about how to change them for the better.
Listening includes actively receiving someone’s words, feelings and body language. In order to discover and meet the needs of others, we need to listen rather than mandate a top-down approach to solutions for all.

Co-create a diverse and inclusion

ve environment with your employees through active listening and asking questions. Reach outside of your organization for help with facilitating these meaningful conversations
Through open dialogue, listening and awareness, you can hear when a person needs to heal from past hurts. Without healing, wounds and scars might resurface unless addressed.
Find your safe places and people with whom you can share your wounds and scars. Then work to create a trustworthy environment for employees that offers healing and opportunities to become their best selves.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another without judgment. It expresses awareness of what it’s like to live in the shoes of others and offer support to aid in their healing.
Find ways to connect with others that have faced experiences different from your own. You can show empathy by expressing a desire to know someone more deeply so you can better understand their challenges and pain.

When addressing a commitment to the growth of people, Servant-Leader Founder Robert Greenleaf shares the following: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And what is the effect on the least privileged in society…?”

Employees will know of your commitment to their growth when you choose to self-reflect, actively listen, make space for healing and show empathy. Putting others’ interests before your own will help unleash the greatness of individuals, your organization and the community at large.
A Servant-Leadership approach develops a culture over compliance, awareness over assumptions, and leadership over legislation. Join me in this movement to respond to the racial and ethnic disparities that exist in our society today.

About the Author and LSS:

Servant-Leader, Héctor Colón, is the current President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS). Within his first two years at LSS, Mr. Colón co-created with his leadership team and boards of directors to realize a significant $4 million financial turnaround for the social services organization. Colón was named 2019 Nonprofit Executive of the Year by BizTimes Media in Milwaukee. He currently serves on the University Of Wisconsin Board Of Regents and is an independent director on the board of USA Boxing. Mr. Colon is set to release his first book, “From Boxing Ring to Board Room” later this summer.

LSS empowers people to live their best lives by offering a path to recovery from addiction or mental illness, a home that’s safe and affordable, a family to thrive in, independence and a life that is truly their own. Every year, nearly thirty thousand people in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan come to LSS with incredible odds stacked against them. LSS innovates services and compassionately delivers them with…

  • Experience: LSS has 138 years of proven results as a social service provider.
  • Effectiveness: Over 90% of the people served say that LSS improved the quality of their lives.
  • Efficiency: LSS beats the industry average on the percentage of dollars raised that are applied to client care.

To support LSS and their work with clients especially impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, please visit or Text LSSGIVE to 41444. For questions, please contact Jackie Harcourt at or 414-246-2701.

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