Blog: Roger Myers

Roger Myers is the president and CEO of Presbyterian Villages of Michigan. He is responsible for executive staff leadership and helping develop policy and strategic planning decisions. Roger will be writing about aging baby boomers in SE Michigan from an economic development perspective.

Post No. 4

What is Servant Leadership?

Many people misunderstand what Servant Leadership actually is. Many think it’s strictly a religious thing (its not). Others think it means weakness in the marketplace of ideas (wrong again). Still others think it’s really about letting others lead while you serve (nope).

Servant leadership really involves several things:

  • Putting others at the center of your motives.
  • Desiring the best for people other than you.
  • Offering leadership in order to do better for people other than yourself.
  • Serving others, which means, in part, fulfilling the desires of others before you fulfill your own desires.
  • A willingness to ignore the status quo in order to serve with excellence.
  • Building like-minded partners who have the same objectives.

Servant Leaders tend to be disruptive – but not in a bad way. They’re willing to play within existing norms if those norms are consistent with their objectives. But they have no problem dropping normalcy and taking on positive risk if it furthers the interests of those who are being served.

So what happens when an organization creates a working culture full of Servant Leaders? Quite simply, you then have lots of people serving others in ways that go beyond the expectations of those who are being served.

Feedback Says It All

We have tried to exercise Servant Leadership at Presbyterian Villages of Michigan (PVM) and we’ve largely succeeded at it. How do I know?

I read letters. Lots of letters – from seniors, adult children, staff, and others. It tells me our commitment to Servant Leadership really works. It also tells me that you don’t have to be a non profit organization or a religious institution to apply Servant Leadership to the culture of your business or organization.

Here are some excerpts from a few of the many, many letters we’ve received from residents of our villages as well as their adult children. They reinforce that our mission is about long-term living, not just long-term care:

o Compassion & engagement: Kim Rastigove, about her mom –“The nurses, aides, housekeeping and catering staff were kind, patient, and caring.”

o Inspiration to others: Kristen Flieger, granddaughter of Art & Mabel Hillagas: “My grandparents were there for years and I know they felt comfortable and safe….thank you again for taking the worry away.”

o Respect for residents & family: Marlene, niece of her Aunt Florence: “You are kind & gentle…and treated each resident as an individual, with respect.”

o Partnership & guidance: Collette Livingston, re, her mom Julianna. “In her mind, she was convinced ‘This is the end’. But she was proven wrong...thank you for walking me through the journey of elder parents, their care and comfort, their happiness, and mine as well.”

o Fast action during trouble: Eileen Lubienski & her mom Eleanor who was hemorrhaging - “Not only do I appreciate your very willing assistance, but gentleness and care along with quick thinking and acting”.

o Healthy physical environment:– Rose Lombardo’s daughter: “The cleanliness of her room and surroundings were impeccable.”

Then again, there are other letters from adult children of seniors that shake me to my boots, because they reveal once again the profound need to a sea change in the health care industry serving elders. This one’s about basic concerns like medication:

Proper Care: Linda Feldt in Westland, re: medication reminders for mom, Dorothy: “…its such a relief that without a doubt that my mother always receives the correct medication & dosage…I did not realize just how fortunate we were until I heard horror stories from two friends of mine who have loved ones at other facilities – one was receiving the wrong medication & dosage. The other came to visit, finding their mother’s medication all over the floor.”

Servant Leadership is all about doing the right thing, regardless of circumstances. When Focus:Hope was looking for a collaboration to build a senior residential village near their Detroit campus, we rolled up our sleeves together and made it work. It was simply the right thing to do.

A lot of people will egg you on to go in other directions, but doing the very next right thing, every day, is what it’s all about. It makes living life so much simpler!

I happen to think that the very next right thing to do is serve the huge, underserved aging Boomer population through walking communities, leisure venues, more housing, and development of positive community experiences.