They live in chronically cramped quarters where privacy is near non-existent. They work long hours with incredibly high expectations of performing with excellence over and over again. There is no consistency with those they serve, the needs change regularly. This is the life that Denisa has chosen to live. She, along with her peers, make their living working as servers for an international river cruise corporation. She is from Czechoslovakia and is working to provide a future for herself and her family.

We had the opportunity to be onboard the cruise that Denisa was working. I was amazed at the work ethic and attitude of all of the crew members, but she was different. I watched as she navigated guests who gave difficult demands and displayed little patience. She always had a smile on her face and offered friendly engagement with every customer she served. When she was tired, she smiled. When things got a bit stressful and overwhelming, she lightened the mood with a joke or a pleasant word. She was skilled as a server but more than that she was skilled in leading others, including the guests on the cruise. She understood servant leadership.

Denisa reminded me that leadership is not about command control. It is about serving, self discipline and hard work. I understand that there are times when decisions must be made and direct commands must be given. However, there are many more times that self control and respect for others should lead the way. It takes a strong leader to offer encouragement and support when she is exhausted and frayed. It takes a special kind of person to demonstrate a spirit of serving others, especially when they are rude or unkind.

This young leader went beyond being a crew member for her cruise company. Denisa truly is making a difference.