My mother-in-law passed away last month, following a long struggle with Alzheimer's. She was 94 years old. Verona Blesse Lafferty was a devoted nurse for fifty years. She served as a Captain in the U.S. Army during World War II as a member of the 21st General Hospital Unit, serving in N. Africa, Italy, and France, where she earned a Bronze Battle Star. As an anesthetist and as a nurse, she cared for thousands of wounded GIs; and, after the war, for tens of thousands of patients at hospitals in Colorado, South Dakota, and Indiana. At her funeral, the minister spoke of her legacy as a wonderful "servant-leader." While she was "Mom" to my wife, I most often saw her through the eyes of our sons--as "Grammie." Our sons are now grown, but the image that I have of her is that of a grandmother who was happy to sit on the floor and play with matchbox cars with our then-young boys. They could always count on hugs and cookies from their Grammie. And while Alzheimer's gradually took her away, bit-by-bit, it is clear to me that she was, indeed, a servant-leader who made a real difference in the lives of many people over the course of her life--soldiers, civilians, grandsons, and many others.
I am reminded that servant-leaders are not the exception. In reality, we are surrounded by real servant-leaders every day--imperfect human beings who are also genuine servant-leaders. Many have never heard the term before, but they live their lives in a sincere effort to serve and lead as best they can. Others are genuine servant-followers: they have no desire to lead others, but they have a strong desire to follow only servant-leaders.
Together, servant-leaders and servant-followers can-and-do make a difference.
Larry C. Spears, President & CEO
The Spears Center for Servant-Leadership