Alameda County
Bar Association

President’s Post: Servant Leadership 
Alice Cheng
Alice Cheng, ACBA President

It’s been a few months since I had the pleasure of addressing our members and guests at the ACBA Installation and Distinguished Service Awards Dinner. It was so wonderful to be in community with everyone in attendance. As we continue our transition from the pandemic, I thought that a note would be a good way to stay in communication with our members.

In 1970, Robert Greenleaf coined the term “servant leadership” to describe a non-traditional leadership philosophy, embedded in a set of behaviors and practices that place the primary emphasis on the well-being of the people and communities being served. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one person, servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares the power, puts the needs of others first, and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

I recently read an article about servant leadership in the workplace and in volunteer organizations. The article mentions ten principals of a servant leader, as identified by Greenleaf:

  1. Awareness
  2. Building community
  3. Commitment to the growth of people
  4. Conceptualization
  5. Empathy
  6. Healing
  7. Foresight
  8. Listening
  9. Persuasion
  10. Stewardship

Reading this article caused me to reflect on my time with the ACBA and the integral role that volunteers play in our bar. Two of these principals stood out to me: awareness and building community. Awareness stands out because our membership is so diverse, and the needs of some are certainly not the needs of all. How do we become a bar association that is inclusive of all of our members? How do we maintain awareness of other attorneys who are not members of our association yet but we hope to serve? How do we get these attorneys to join us? How do we build community not just with our attorneys, but with other professionals? With the bench? With Alameda County residents?

Reflecting back on the pre-COVID years and my past ten or so years being heavily involved with the ACBA, I firmly believe that we built community through our events. Whether it is a solo attorney looking to engage with other attorneys or potential referral sources, or it is a young attorney seeking mentorship or other young professionals “in the trenches”, we had an event for them.  The post-pandemic professional and personal lives of our members probably looks quite different, so getting people to attend after hours, in person events may be a tall order.  I do not say this lightly when I say that the health of our organization depends on you, our members. May I please prevail upon each of you to bring a colleague or friend to an ACBA event this year?

While I had been exposed to the concept of servant leadership before and had practiced some of these principals in my professional and volunteer life, it was through past president Michael Johnson that I learned the concept of stewardship, another one of the servant leader principals. To me, stewardship means leaving things just as good or even better as you found them. This is the crux of my goal as your president, and I hope to achieve that goal by engaging as many of our members as I can this year.

I hope to see you soon. Here’s a few of the ACBA events I intend to go to over the next few months. If you need a friendly face in the crowd, send me an email. Do you have an idea? Please email me at

5/11 – Justice for All: Celebrating Pro Bono

5/17 – Advanced Child Support Issues MCLE

5/18 – The CPRA at Work MCLE

6/15 – Immigration/Labor and Employment Sections Social

7/20 – ACBA Summer Reception

7/27 – Public Entity/Environmental Sections Social

8/6 – Battle of the Bay – As/Giants Game