Markoe teaches the truth of oxymoron “Servant Leadership”


Emily Webb

Dr. Markoe talks to students about the most important qualities of servant leadership.

by Emily Webb, Editor-In-Chief

Oxymoron:  “servant leader”. How can I demonstrate leadership if I put myself in the position of a lowly servant?

On October 18, Dr. Michael Markoe, 1989 Linganore graduate and current Deputy Superintendent of FCPS, spoke to the Management and Entrepreneurship class about the importance of servant leadership

His presentation began with an interactive activity. Around the room, he had placed a variety of qualities a leader might have; for example, one was “Simplify everything while reinforcing the basics.”  Then, each student was given three stickers and told to place a sticker on the three leadership qualities they felt were the most important. 

As Markoe predicted, the qualities the class deemed most important were some of the defining qualities of servant leadership. He proceeded to give real-life examples of how servant leadership. A most memorable example is the transformation of  fast food restaurant every student is familiar with – Popeyes.

Emily Webb
Students read and discuss the articles about servant leadership that Dr. Markoe provided.

Not only is Popeyes famous for their new chicken sandwich, but they are also well known for the drastic change they made to their business model. When the tension between the franchise and franchisees caused the business to begin to crumble in 2007, the management team took a step back and decided to change their approach. 

They realized that while they had spent all their time working to grow the business, they had been neglecting the franchisee owners who were their foundation. The moment they changed their focus from profit to people, they experienced positive growth. 

“When our story began, we didn’t know it would be servant leadership that drove success. We didn’t have a plaque in the office that stated our purpose and principles. What we did have was a team of leaders who were willing to focus their passion and ambition on the success of the popel and the enterprise before their own interests,” said Cheryl A. Bachelder, former Popeyes CEO.

Markoe went on to dissect two more businesses with similar stories, Costco and Waste Connections. Through analyzing these three success stories, his point was driven home – stewarding servant leadership is key for transforming the world. 

Junior Tabitha Knedisen said, “I thought this part of the presentation was great. I learned a lot about what makes a good servant leader and how it can help in management positions.”

Dr. Michael Markoe, Class of 1990

Throughout his presentation, Markoe urged students to focus on one main idea: search for the story behind the person.

Dr. Markoe was a crucial player on the Varsity football team his senior year.

Dr. Markoe’s story is similar to any other high school student. He is a 1990 graduate of Linganore High School. He was very involved in his senior year; he served as senior class president and was a member of the Varsity football team, in addition to being involved in many clubs. 

“I may not have always been the smartest kid, but I was always looking to learn, and I still am today. I think that is one of the most important qualities someone can have. If you’re still learning, you’re still leading. Be teachable,” said Markoe.

Emily Webb
Students take notes during Dr. Markoe’s leadership tip slides.

In addition to “be teachable”, Markoe provided students with qualities they can adopt to improve their leadership skills: be connected, be empathetic, be grateful, be open, be present, and be vulnerable. 

“I have explored leadership for the past 20 years, and through that I have done a lot of reading and learning about people. From all of this I have learned that successful leaders are servant leaders, they have great results and cultivate great people,” said Dr. Markoe. 

Contrary to what the term conveys, servant leaders are not weak leaders. Markoe advised students to think outside of the generalizations about the ideal leader they have and consider this new approach. 

Senior Jack Maerten was inspired. “Dr. Markoe’s presentation went further than the regular inspiration of today’s youth to become tomorrow’s leaders. Instead, he offered information on how and why to become leaders who work for others instead of themselves. It inspired me greatly and will definitely leave an imprint on my future career.”

Markoe left students with one last word of advice, “If you look at our nation and the world, you can blatantly see a need for servant leadership. In this day and age, it seems a lot easier to put ourselves first, but America was built by putting others first. Be our country’s renewal and ask yourself, are you serving others, or are you serving yourself?”