We have a choice in the Oct. 1 mayoral election between two starkly different styles of leadership. I believe our community will grow strongest under the guidance of a true servant leader. And only one of the candidates fits that description.

Robert K. Greenleaf turned the business world upside down in 1970, when he first published his essay “The Servant as Leader.” Long-held beliefs about who made effective leaders were wrong, he said. In fact, the best, most effective organizations were always led by what he called servant leaders, and they were the very antithesis of what had traditionally been thought of as effective leaders. In the years since that essay, the principles of servant leadership have swept through business thinking, and many of the best-managed companies in the world are now steered by servant leadership principles.

Greenleaf differentiated servant leaders from traditional authoritarian leaders in this way: “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant [leader] to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.” Servant leaders thus turn the usual organizational pyramid upside down. Their job is to serve first. And the real bosses are the people they serve.

I recognized Valentina Webb as a true servant leader the very first day I met her. I have since come to know that Val was raised by a strong woman who is herself a consummate servant leader, and that Val has passed her principles of service on to her own children. This family of servants, with Val now at the forefront, is bound to our community in ways too deep and too many to recount here, but all those ways share a singular trait - they grew out of service. And most of that service has been hands_on, frontline work on behalf of others. Val has served on public-interest boards galore, helped save treasures like Holy Family, worked as a city commissioner, and spent more time in the trenches of service than almost anyone else in our city.

And that is precisely who we need as mayor. Valentina uses the word “we” more than anyone I’ve ever met. She is completely about bringing us together around a common purpose, and has shown decades of skill in accomplishing that - not by high rhetoric and improbable agendas, but by roll-up-her-sleeves work.

If you vote for Val - and I urge you to do that - expect to be asked to volunteer yourself. That’s the second thing I learned about Valentina Webb: she counsels us all to be servants to each other. And you will be asked to serve.

John Alber