Luke Beveridge and the Decisions of a Servant Leader


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

In a recent post, Paul Browning reflected on leadership and the act of decision making. He outlines four categories:

  • The controller
  • The pleaser
  • The procrastinator
  • The consultor

Thinking about his own practice, Browning suggests that too often he is a pleaser. Although this may keep people happy, Browning points out that it does not necessarily build trust in the same way as when someone consults. However, on the weekend this was somewhat challenged with Luke Beveridge’s decision to handover his medal during the AFL Grand Final.

via GIPHY

There has been a lot said about Luke Beveridge over the last few days. He surfs, cuts his own hair, sings his own songs, even occasionally gets around on a skateboard. However, the moment that will forever be marked on my memory will be when he took off the Jock McHale Medal, a reward given to the winning coach, and gave it to Robert Murphy. This was a symbolic gesture, to give the medal to a player at heart and soul of the club, who after years of tireless service was struck down earlier this year with a knee injury. Stuck on the sidelines, he has been a visible presence in the coaches box each game. Although it was Beveridge’s medal and no one would question that he earnt it, in the spur of a moment he made the decision to be selfless, another member of the club, so as to please the masses.

To me, this is epitomises the notion of servant leadership. Although some talk about servant leadership as taking responsibility for the worst jobs, to me it is also about using any and every opportunity give back so as to build up the whole. The Mind Tools site describes it as follows:

As a servant leader, you’re a “servant first” – you focus on the needs of others, especially team members, before you consider your own. You acknowledge other people’s perspectives, give them the support they need to meet their work and personal goals, involve them in decisions where appropriate, and build a sense of community within your team. This leads to higher engagement, more trust, and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders.

This was summed up in an interview with one of the teams veterans who when asked whether it was the coach that the team played for he responded saying that it was actually for each other.

This ‘team first’ mindset was also demonstrated when after the game Marcus Bontempillis poured a container of sports drink over the coach in the midst of an interview. It could be easy to perceive such an act as arrogance or immaturity, or maybe a homage to NFL. Yet what it said to me was that from the coach down everyone was in it together.

We talk about flat and agile structures, yet sometimes leaders are unwilling to relinquish the power and control. Although consulting others when making decisions can help build trust across the board, there are times when decisions need to be made and it is often these moments that leave the greatest mark. For in the end, action creates culture one choice at a time.


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