Dr. Neal R. Berte, President Emeritus of Birmingham-Southern College, recently spoke to the Class of 2011 Cohort of the School of Business Honors Program on the subject of servant leadership.
Dr. Berte has both researched and practiced service leadership both during his academic career and since his retirement several years ago as president of Birmingham-Southern after more than 28 years in that position.
Students heard Dr. Berte describe the works of authors as varied as Robert Greenleaf, author of “The Servant as Leader,” Howard Gardner, author of “Five Minds for the Future,” and Rollo May, author of “The Courage to Create.”
Robert Greenleaf, for whom the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership at Indiana University is named, described servant leadership this way: “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”
Similarly, Dr. Berte told students of advice he received from an early mentor in his career, that the best leaders were those who saw themselves primarily as “givers” and not “takers.”
The 19 honors students also discussed their own experiences with servant leaders in their own lives.
Dr. Berte was introduced by Class of 2010 business honors student Josh Carpenter. Carpenter had earlier interviewed Dr. Berte for his own honors project on leadership styles in higher education.
Among Dr. Berte’s many examples of recent service to his community are his serving as co-chair of the campaign to restore the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, serving as co-chair of the 50th anniversary campaign of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham (along with School of Business assistant professor Eddie Friend), and serving as a non-physician member of the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation.
The School of Business Honors Program is a selective, three-semester program focusing on leadership and is directed by Assistant Professor Stephen A. Yoder, J.D.