Framing Up: A Service Framework for Positive Relationships

In all conversations and debates on well-being and what influences it, our relationships with others are always seen as important. Humans are inherently social creatures, and we know that we need to feel connected to those around us for us to function. But it’s not just about having relationships, the quality of those relationships also has an impact. If we surround ourselves with lots of people and have a lot of social interaction, but that interaction is only with people who make us feel awful, our well-being will only be negatively impacted. So, we know that a really big indicator of our well-being is how positive our relationships are with the people around us. 

So let's dive in...

The big question, though, is: how do we determine what positive relationships look like? I’m sure if I asked, you’d be able to rattle off a bunch of qualities that you personally look for in strong relationships and we end up deciding that a ‘positive’ relationship is just defined by the people in that relationship. But I’m sure we can all think of examples of relationships where we know that the relationship is not positive but the people within it think it is. Sometimes our own beliefs about how positive our relationships are are tainted by other things that we can’t see. 

So, we come back to the question. What kinds of things can we point to that tell us whether a relationship is positive or not? And what can we do to establish positive relationships from the get-go? There are some people who write about the idea of high-quality connections and the impact that they can have on our overall well-being (Dutton, 2003; Stephens, Heaphy & Dutton, 2011). However, the focus of these relationships is on short-term, fleeting connections we have with people at school or at work. I’m interested in what it means for our long-term relationships that are sustained over time.  

This is where I think leadership can come in. I know that when we hear the word ‘leadership’ we probably jump straight to thinking about people in positions of power who decide how the country should run, for example. Instead, we like to use a framework of leadership created by Robert Greenleaf, where the idea of being a servant leader not only improves our own well-being, but also gives us a framework to establish positive relationships with others. 

In a nutshell, Greenleaf defines the servant leader as the leader who is servant first. They are distinguished as those who make sure that other peoples’ needs are being met. Importantly, this is not always at the expense of their own needs, but rather that the servant leader ensures that they are behaving always in the greater interest of those around them. Greenleaf offers 10 principles that help distinguish between the leader who serves from the servant who leads.  


I want to skip over a few of those principles and focus primarily on the principles that focus specifically on our relationships with others, which, as it turns out, ends up being most of those principles. First is listening, where the servant leader responds to problems but listening first. Servant leaders express empathy and therefore are more likely to be trusted by others. Servant leaders understand their level of responsibility over those that follow them and thus have stewardship of them. There is a commitment to the growth of others and giving that growth the utmost importance. Finally, servant leaders take care to build community, where they understand that the connections created through community are vital for those that follow them.   

If we think about these 5 principles in the context of our regular relationships, I think we can probably agree that they would define a ‘positive’ relationship. Although this list is neither necessary nor sufficient to define all ‘positive’ relationships, I think it’s still a useful framework for us to think about creating positive relationships.  

MY final thoughts

If positive relationships are key for our wellbeing, and servant leadership, at its core, is about creating positive relationships through service, we can view servant leadership as something we can turn to for an idea of how we can create meaningful, positive, long-lasting relationships. Importantly though, servant leadership is not about developing super strong relationships and friendships with everyone around you. No one expects you to be friends with everyone, or even get along with everyone. Instead, the servant leader prioritises having positive connections with the people around them, and by doing so, benefits their long-term, deeper relationships as well as their own wellbeing in the process. 

ELLE, Burn Bright Research and Program Development Lead



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I found Burn Bright in the midst of studying civil engineering at the University of Wollongong, just as I wanted a richer, deeper, more full experience of life.

Through Burn Bright, I have met many students and volunteers who are all seeking to find their place in the world. When we come together at NLC or SLC, no matter our age, we begin on the same page, of wanting to do good for ourselves, our community, and the world. And then we are thrown into a program that brings us closer to each other, our purpose, and how to bring forth this impact. It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

Volunteering with Burn Bright stoked a fire in me – It helped me feel comfortable in myself and made me realise life isn’t just about work, study, or productivity, but our relationships and how we connect with others along the way.

I have learned skills in videography, worked for a top-tier corporation in marketing, and most recently published a book called “18 and lost? So were we” 

I have a passion for storytelling, bring loads of energy wherever I go, and am dedicated to helping young people move through the initiation of leaving high school and going into the ‘real world’. 

The best part for me is being able to stay connected to the latest generation growing through high school. To see them grow, expand and express more of themselves is like watching an artwork paint itself. It’s magic.

I am Simon Thurston, a Kiwi based in Perth. I work as an Instructional Designer and in my spare time I enjoy reading, running, and board games.

Since my initial connection to Burn Bright I have been onboard with their mission. Burn Bright’s focus on building the capabilities enables students of all ages to see how they can shape their world through connections with others and their own self discovery.

Seeing others grow, learn, and open up is what keeps me coming back, to help others realise their potential and how they can influence their future and their community is a definite highlight. It’s infectious, the atmosphere when they run a program or camp is welcoming, exciting, emotional, and rewarding all in one.



Hi, friends! I’m Kelsie, a psychologist from central QLD working in private practice. I got involved with Burn Bright officially in 2016, but the journey started long before that. I attended the National Leadership Camp (now hosted annually by Burn Bright) in 2009. It had such a profound impact on me that I returned as a mentor and volunteer. Those connections ultimately lead me to joining the Burn Bright team as an adult.

When I transitioned from facilitating with the Burn Bright team to working as a psychologist, I was so grateful for an incredible foundation of skills (particularly facilitation, communication and interpersonal skills) along with a strong grounding in positive psychology that Burn Bright integrates into their ethos.

I can’t imagine my life without volunteering for Burn Bright. I have met some of my dearest friends through the Burn Bright crew. I’ve found that volunteering for BB is rewarding, humbling, and often brings as much personal growth for the volunteer as it does for the young person.

From a professional perspective, I love that Burn Bright programs/camps support the adolescent individuation process by providing an exciting and supportive environment for teens to explore their own sense of self, personality, identify and values alongside other young people.

Imagine this POV: you’re back at school wanting to figure everything out and fit in – and you find
yourself in a room with amazing music that uplifts you and hooks you in. You meet the team of
dynamic, interesting, caring facilitators whose own friendships inspire you. Their facilitation skills bring about amazing light-bulb moments and lessons that light a fire inside you… It makes me want to feel that for myself again. The next best thing, for me, is volunteering for the team who passes that on to other young people.

My start at Burn Bright is one of the best cases of one door closing and another door opening. After losing my job at a local pub while on uni holidays, I started looking for new opportunities that were different and decided to volunteer. Searching for opportunities, I found working bees, community driving and nursing home visits, but the chance to become a National Leadership Camp intern stood out. Over nearly six months, I worked with the team to pull off Burn Bright’s first National Leadership Camp, and had an absolute blast in the process. After camp, I started working for Burn Bright while studying, doing anything and everything — data analysis, hiring strategy and even picking up furniture.

Finishing up working for Burn Bright in 2019, I am still actively involved with the Burn Bright volunteer community. I’ve found that the emphasis placed on investing in your relationships, understanding your values and making an impact allow you to be accepted for you. This has given me the tools needed to make the difficult decisions that life will inevitably throw at you. Besides all that, I’ve had a ton of fun and formed life-long friendships with people I may have never crossed paths with otherwise. “Get involved — you’ll change your life for the better and make life‑long friends in the process”.

I am a health science student from Perth wanting to get into the mental health realm of occupational therapy. In the meantime, I work as a barista and supervisor at a beachside café. In my spare time, I love to play netball, be around my friends and I have just gotten into crocheting. I went to Perth College where I was lucky enough to go to the first Perth College Leadership Camp in 2018 as a student and absolutely loved it. What really drew me in was the atmosphere that was created, the open conversations, and the lasting relationships formed.

Since then I have been a mentor for the Perth College Leadership Camp in 2019, 2020, and 2021 and had the opportunity to go to the National Leadership Camp in 2019. When Burn Bright comes to Perth I also love helping out at their programs as much as I can.

Volunteering for Burn Bright has given me so much that I could never have imagined. I have learned so much about myself and I have so much more confidence in myself and my abilities that I know I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t exposed to the amazing opportunities volunteering for Burn Bright has given me. Before being involved I would never have seen myself being a mentor, role model, and facilitator to students, but now I can confidently say that I am, and I have made an impact on others that I am proud of. I have also made so many meaningful connections to so many amazing people from all around Australia through Burn Bright. I get asked quite a bit why I keep coming back to my old school to volunteer and it’s simply because I was given this amazing opportunity to be a part of the Burn Bright programs and if I can help facilitate that experience to someone else then why wouldn’t I?

I was born in Perth and moved to Sydney in my early 20’s to continue work as a youth worker and surfboard maker. This was followed by 30 years working in IT as a computer programmer.

Following retirement in 2016 I searched for an organisation that was aligned with my values of servant leadership and service, especially in the youth space. This search led to Burn Bright where I am now volunteering one day a week and mentoring at the National Leadership Camp. Volunteering with Burn Bright gives me a great deal of hope and confidence in the next generation of leaders. It is a pleasure to be a part of the Burn Bright family.

I have been married to Denise for 41 years and we both very much feel part of the Burn Bright team.

When not at Burn Bright you may find me running along Manly beach, riding my mountain bike or indulging in my passion for photography.











Hi! I’m Rosie, a 20-something full-time public servant, part-time Tassie tourism advocate.

I am passionate about seeing young people succeed, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching them become the next generation of change-makers.

I have been a champion of the ethos and work of Burn Bright since its inception in 2014, and consider them to be the leading experts in their field. By delivering impactful leadership and wellbeing programs to students across Australia, they offer the knowledge, skills and engagement to invoke lasting positive change in school communities.

The Burn Bright team are dedicated, inclusive and values-driven, which is why I love working with them.