Mrs. Knote, who stood about 4 feet 10 inches (6 feet if you included her beehive hairdo), was my fourth grade teacher. Her short stature did not equate with the force of nature that was Mrs. Knote. When asked recently to list the characteristics of someone I admire, Mrs. Knote was first on my list. Many years later, her influence on my life continues.

What did she do to make such a lasting impression, and how have I tried to emulate her?

Be present. My other teachers were physically in the classroom. Mrs. Knote was both tangibly and emotionally present. When she looked at you, she SAW you.  As a person. There is something powerful and affirming about being truly seen and valued by another human being.

Weigh in.  Although she let us work out our issues, Mrs. Knote knew when to intervene or offer an observation. She enforced the classroom rules of kindness and helpfulness with direct feedback.

Be willing to work as hard as anyone. Though she never complained, all of Mrs. Knote’s students knew that she worked tirelessly for our benefit, made sure everyone had lunch money (probably from her own pocket) and spent most after-school hours working one-on-one with a kid who needed extra help. She expected us to push ourselves, and she served us as though teaching were her calling, not her job.

Servant leadership doesn’t get the press it did when Robert Greenleaf wrote about it in 1970. Yet there is great power in the leader who does not seek power for herself, but works steadfastly to build others’ capabilities and success.

Mrs. Knote taught me that true leadership isn’t about me. “The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.” -J. Carla Nortcutt

Want to be more like Mrs. Knote? Have an exemplary leader story? Comment below or message us.


Photo by J.J. Thompson on Unsplash.