About one week ago I was talking with my friend Jesse (who is a West Point graduate and now semi-retired after a very successful business career). We spoke about the lack of effective leadership in this country, more specifically about the lack of true servant leaders. A servant leader is one who helps the members of his/her team to reach their full potential and therefore perform at their best for the organization. This concept of servant leadership was developed by Robert K. Greenleaf in his book titled “Servant Leadership”.
A servant leader is not a “me first” leader. Let me see if I can illustrate this point. As a Naval Aviator in the United States Marine Corps I always made sure that the people who reported directly to me ate before I did. My rationale was that these were the people that worked on the aircraft that I flew and as much as possible I wanted them to have the best of everything including the best cuts and pieces of meat. Many times my men wanted me to go to the head of the line but I always refused and followed them through the line and then I ate what was left.
My payback was the fact that many times when I was scheduled for a flight I would notice that “my guys” would spend extra time pre-flighting the aircraft and making sure that every system was operating to the best of its ability. This not only helped keep me safe but also affected the operational readiness of my squadron, which increased the operational readiness of the entire Marine Corps.
You see I learned early in my military career that if I worked hard for my men then my men would work hard for me. Additionally when we were deployed I would spend time with my men to determine how their family members were doing back home. When necessary I would point them towards proper resources in order to resolve concerns and issues.
My point is that we need more servant leaders in our businesses, organizations and homes. A servant leader is made and not born. I do not believe that this theory of leadership is taught enough in our organizations and schools. I do however believe that the reason it is not taught more often is that not enough people know about it or have experienced its benefits. We can build strong organizations and countries by putting the needs of others before your own. Just take a look at what man named Jesus Christ accomplished using this model of leadership.