Tip #787: The Trainer as Servant Leader

“Good leaders must first become good servants.” Robert K. Greenleaf

In her article “Be the Trainer You Want to Have,” Candid Taylor Brandon suggests that trainers should follow the 10 principles of servant leadership:

  1. Listening: to hear what learners need
  2. Empathy: to meet the needs of diverse learners
  3. Healing: to help learners reconnect with work, heal and find joy again
  4. Awareness: to play to your strengths as a trainer
  5. Persuasion: to open dialogue to engage learners
  6. Conceptualization: to train on what’s real and possible
  7. Foresight: to be an advocate for learners in strategic planning
  8. Stewardship: to represent the organization in the best light
  9. Commitment to the growth of people: to build learners’ skills and abilities
  10. Building community: to keep communications open throughout the organization

I completely support the idea of focusing training on the learners’ real needs instead of on the trainer. From that perspective, Ms. Brandon’s proposal makes sense. However, she tries too hard to make each of the principles fit with the trainer as a servant leader.

For example, I’m not sure what healing has to do with on the job training. It’s a nice thought but probably beyond the purview of training.

I also disagree with the idea that the trainer should, through awareness, “do more training activities that fall into your strengths.” If the trainer is really going to be responsive to the needs of learners and set them up for success, s/he has to be open to using a variety of learning activities. This may require the trainer to stretch. Perhaps the trainer should be aware of where s/he needs to grow.

She redefines persuasion as dialogue that “encourages learners to develop their own self motivation to adopt the information in the training program.” I personally don’t see the connection between persuasion, which is a one-sided attempt to convince someone to do something, and dialogue, which involves two or more people in a conversational give and take.

Even if the trainer cannot embody all of the principles of servant leadership, her writing provides further support for learner-centered training. And that is the most important take away from her article.

May your learning be sweet.





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