Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether servant leadership can be applied to college management. The research methodology involved questionnaire and co-constructed discussion eliciting the views of teachers on how they interpret leadership in a sixth form college. Three other models of leadership were discussed along with servant leadership. The results suggest that servant leadership is the least recognised form of leadership in colleges. Design/methodology/approach – The research methodology involved two phases. The first phase involved a probing questionnaire that elicited teachers’ views on institutional leadership and enquired about the purpose of leadership. This pilot questionnaire was followed up with a series of co-constructed discussions with teachers. Findings – The findings suggest that servant leadership is not prevalent within the sixth form college sector. Transactional leadership was the most identified form of organisational leadership, with distributed and transformational models coming ahead of servant leadership. These outcomes highlight the shared instrumentalism that exists within colleges as they confront the developing education market in the UK. Research limitations/implications – This case study, albeit echoing other larger investigations, was undertaken at a single college and is therefore limited in its generalisability. Originality/value – There is very little research undertaken into the leadership and management of sixth form colleges, and even less on the relevance of servant leadership to the education sector. This paper offers a tentative view of how teachers view leadership and the dominance of transactional leadership in the college system.