August 2015

How business principles apply to education providers                                                                          Courteleigh Smith

On Wednesday 8th July 2015, the London School of Business and Management held an annual Teaching and Learning Conference titled Exploring the role of Servant Leadership in Higher Education. In his book The Servant as Leader, Robert K. Greenleaf (2008) discusses the principal benefits of implementing the philosophy of Servant Leadership, namely enriched individuals, organisations and communities. The Servant Leadership philosophy has a wider application with regard to business principles related to knowledge, productivity and customer satisfaction.

In order to grow companies need to improve by learning from their experiences and by gathering intelligence (information) to effect improvement. Goldman Sachs (2015) has 14 Business Principles and Standards which can be implemented in organisations across the world. Number 3 states that: ‘Our assets are our people, capital and reputation’. It also states that once diminished, reputation is the hardest to rebuild. Forbes (2013) espouses a similar view on its website Seven Principals for Entrepreneurial Success. Number 2 states: ‘Respect your customers… If you can help your customer be successful, that’s a good day, and longer lasting and ultimately more profitable than if you just sell them something.’ The question is how these principles can be adopted with regard to education and student satisfaction?

As organisations, educational institutions need to distinguish themselves as providers, and they need to attract paying customers by advertising and marketing. Creating a strategy to keep and satisfy the needs of the ‘customer’ is crucial to financial success. Enrolling students may be important, but so are improving retention rates and ‘student success.’

Student success and failure prevention seem to be intertwined. Programs at university level are all about averting student failure, but are institutions looking at this from the wrong angle? Some educators argue that it is about creating ‘positive’ learning environments with students emulating the key ideals of successful individuals within the system. Counselman (2015) identifies 3 Ps relevant to success, namely purpose (motivation for studying), pathway (the positive outcome) and people (support for potential). Self-determination theorists argue in a similar vein that students who set educational targets and implement strategies by themselves act through intrinsic motivation, rather than just external rewards; and are more likely to reach their goals (American Psychological Association, 2004). Kumari Lane supports this premise and argued in her conference paper that servant leadership was about teachers working towards instilling qualities and practices that could transform their students into leaders for the future. Crucially, it is down to the determination of the student. Institutional ‘student success’ programs notwithstanding, if students do not experience the deferred gratification of their hard work, their ability to succeed will be limited.

Reference List

American Psychological Association. (2004). Increasing student success through instruction in self-determination.
Counselman, G. (2015). Preventing failure isn’t the same as ‘student success.’
accessed 23 July 2015.
Forbes. (2013). Principals for entrepreneurial success.
accessed 23 July 2015. 

Goldman Sachs. (2015). Goldman Sachs business principals. accessed 23 July 2015
Greenleaf. K, R. (2008). The servant as leader. The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leader.
Lane, K. (2015). Servant leadership: empowering learners through ‘flipped’ classrooms. Pg.1-10.


Courteleigh Smith

Student Success Advisor.


Partners and Accreditations

Get In Touch

  • London School of Business and Management
  • 1 Malet Street, London, WC1E 7JN.