Called to Servant Leadership

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Servant leadership. It is a term that we hear from time to time at Georgetown and that probably came up a bit more frequently in the wake of the Pope’s visit to D.C., but what does it really mean? A couple of weeks ago, the day retreat for Companions leaders, “Called to Servant Leadership,” created a space and opportunity for me to reflect on that topic. This retreat allowed me to consider my strengths as a servant leader, how I am called to this type of leadership through Companions and how I might grow in that role.

Companions dinners have a unique quality to them. To me they represent a deep fellowship – whether the participants are friends or a collection of strangers who chose to eat and reflect together for an hour and a half. Around the table we become a group of equals, sharing a meal and walking side by side in our spiritual journeys. Our day retreat offered a chance to reflect on our roles in that setting where servant leadership becomes so important. At the Companions table, I am called not to control or command, but to gently guide; not to judge, but to listen with empathy; to be self-aware and aware of the participants, to meet each person where he or she is at that time and to create a safe space for all to question and explore. As we considered this role further, I realized that one very important aspect of servant leadership – building community – rests at the heart of a good Companions dinner. Because I always felt that one on one conversations with people were more my specialty, building community is one of the more challenging tasks of servant leadership for me. Creating a sense of community, especially among strangers, can prove difficult but very rewarding. It requires simultaneously paying attention to individuals and the group, but then leads to deeper, more meaningful conversation and lasting relationships. In this area, I find an opportunity to grow and learn from my fellow leaders, many of whom possess a special talent for fostering such connections among people. With their help, God’s guidance and a little practice, I continue to develop community-building skills as I seek to be a servant leader for the growing Companions community.

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At the beginning of each Companions dinner, we ask the group how they are coming to the table, and at the end we ask what they take with them as they leave. I came to the retreat excited for another year of Companions, but also with a sense of yearning for reflection, to look inward, and to find my place at Georgetown again as I start my final year. Leaving the retreat, I had a renewed and clearer sense that I was called to a place at the table as a servant leader, not only in Companions but also in other areas of my life. I am called to learn from the wonderful living examples around me here at Georgetown and to do so reflecting always on the intent and effects of my actions. Our retreat reminded me to live deeply, to love intentionally, to continue to seek out meaning, and to attempt to embody the characteristics of a servant first whenever I lead.

Written by Stephanie Furlong, C’16