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The Service Leadership Model

Leading by helping others

Kiwanis International empowers people at every stage of life to become competent, capable and compassionate leaders by giving them the opportunity to help others. Through its Service Leadership Programs, Kiwanis teaches young leaders new ways to change the world by serving one child and one community at a time.

Simply stated, service leadership is the powerful force that occurs when a person's heart to serve unites with his or her call to lead.

The Heart to Serve

Making a difference within the school and community is what K-Kids is all about! Club members identify needs within the school and community and develop a plan of action to meet those needs. Whether it's collecting coats and canned goods for those in need or organizing a teacher appreciation event, K-Kids members have the opportunity to work together with Kiwanis-family volunteers to make the community and the world a better place.

K-Kids can provide opportunities for students to discover their heart to serve. When students discover their heart to serve, they decide that serving others is a new, exciting way of life. The service club experience at a young age can help students accept their own ability to make a difference, enhance their knowledge of their own passions and convictions, and develop their ability to empathize with those in need in their communities.

What does having a heart to serve look like? You'll notice members:

  • Show more care and compassion for each other. 
  • Identify needs in their school and community with less prompting. 
  • Can better express their beliefs and ideas about how they want to help others. 
  • Can discuss their service projects in greater depth and insight. 
  • Identify themselves as the ones who can make a difference. 
How can you support this discovery?
  • Ensure that community service remains the clubs main focus. 
  • Facilitate conversations before and after service projects to help students express their emotions and insights.
  • Pay attention to members who identify a passion and help them find resources to investigate this further.
  • Introduce the club to community charities and cause-related organizations.
  • Make sure the club's choices for projects and service initiatives are student led.

The Call to Lead

K-Kids can help young people answer their call to lead. Every person has leadership potential, and service clubs provide a forum for young leaders to unlock theirs. Someone with a call to lead will decide to step forward when the easier choice might have been to stand still. The service club experience at a young age can help students accept their own identity as a leader, enhance their knowledge of how to be a leader who is others-centered, and develop their ability to move an idea into purposeful action.

What do K-Kids members who have a call to lead look like? You'll notice members:

  • Show an increased willingness to step forward to volunteer. 
  • Display humility when entrusted with leadership positions. 
  • Gain energy by solving problems and addressing big issues. 
  • Steadily increase their involvement. 
  • Say, "I am a leader". 

How can you help members answer the call to lead?

  • Provide training to elected leaders on not just the technical aspects, but on the soft skills of listening, recognizing and empowering. 
  • Praise and recognize members who lead with humility and/or display leadership that is others-centered. 
  • Pay attention and show appreciation to members who contribute more than before. 
  • Talk about leaders and leadership in terms of something all members have the capacity for, not just officers.
  • Make sure the club's operations and decisions are student led. 

The Courage to Engage

K-Kids can be excellent forums for students to exercise the courage to engage. Someone who exercises the courage to engage decides to live a life of collaboration and not isolation. More than ever before, young people need to develop the capacity to effectively interact with others face-to-face. The service club experience at a young age can help students accept that collaboration is a key to success, can enhance their knowledge of how to build coalitions to address community needs, and can develop their ability to build strong human connections through conversation.

What does the courage to engage look like? You'll notice members:

  • Show eagerness to engage with each other and build relationships.
  • Become more and more approachable to others because of their interpersonal skills. 
  • Communicate more effectively in personal conversations and small groups. 
  • Work out conflict together with minimal help from advisors. 
  • Show confidence when engaging with people outside of the club, including school and community leaders. 

How can you support members in exercising their courage to engage?

  • Engage members in recruiting peers to get involved in service.
  • Encourage the club officers to include fellowship time at every meeting, using "icebreaker" activities to promote interaction. 
  • Set aside time for educating the members on core skills, such as proper introductions, active listening and social interactions. 
  • Pat attention and show appreciation to members who exhibit a high degree of excellence in social skills. 
  • Provide opportunities for club members to interact with adult leaders and parents in ways that allow them to practice social skills.

For more information, contact the Kiwanis International member services team at 1-800-549-2647 ext. 411 or email