Servant Leadership is the Art of Management
I served in the 2nd BCT, 1st Cavalry Division for almost four years and had been led by many NCO’s in that time, but one in particular will always stand out to me. Staff Sergeant Alvarez would constantly put the needs of his Soldiers above his own in all aspects of life. Weather it was getting us off early after all our tasks were complete or taking time out of his personal time to square us away on proper lifting techniques at the gym, SSG Alvarez would go above and beyond when it came to the wellbeing of his subordinates. Even to this very day he still calls me every Thanksgiving and Christmas to make sure I have a place to stay and enjoy the holidays, nearly three years since the last time I fell under him.
Staff Sergeant Alvarez was a textbook example of a servant leader. The concept of servant leadership is not a new one. The first recorded mention of the thought of servant leadership was by Jesus in the Bible, as he taught his disciples that leaders must serve their servant and see them as equals. However, it was primarily brought into the modern world by the author Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 essay, “The Servant as a Leader.” In it, he defined servant leadership simply as “a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve” (Greenleaf). As a servant leader, you put the needs of your subordinates above your own and assist in them growing professionally and as a human being. However, the welfare of your underlings come second to only one thing, the accomplishment of the mission or task at hand. In theory, this leadership style creates a sense of cohesion and promotes growth of experience and knowledge in all echelons of rank.
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There are ten key characteristics that can enable you to be an effective servant leader and must be practiced daily. The first six of these traits are known as the minor traits. To begin with, listening is chief. By paying full attention and giving feedback or ask questions, you show those in your care that you can address and understand any issue that they may possibly have. Secondly, you must have empathy and be able to understand your Soldiers by keeping an open mind. Be healing when it comes to supporting your people both physically and emotionally and make sure they are aware of the resources available for them when it comes to health. Having self-awareness helps by being able to manage your emotions and identify your own strengths and weaknesses. Taking an authoritarian approach when encouraging action is not an effective way to be a servant leader, so being persuasive will allow you to build consensus. You mast also take your day-to-day tasks and merge it into the bigger picture for your troops, known as conceptualization. The last four are commonly referred to as the major traits and should be the cornerstones onto which you place your pillar of strong servant leadership.
Foresight comes with experience but is equally important, as predicting what will happen and trusting your intuition will give confidence to your Soldiers. The most vital skill to attain when it comes to servant leadership is the art of stewardship. This encompasses keeping accountability of the role your subordinates have in the grand scheme, leading by example, and having the confidence to stand up and enforce the army values. Making sure your underlings grow into strong and capable leaders is additionally paramount to creating a great servant leader, as those charged under you will also be leaders one day. Finally, you must build a sense of community within your sphere of influence. Incorporating cross MOS training, organizing social events, and actively engaging and inquiring about your Soldiers personal lives, in a tactful manner, are all amazing ways of achieving a sense of belonging within the team or squad. Utilizing these ten key qualities will enable your team or squad to develop as individuals and achieve any goal.
In conclusion, servant leadership and the skills involved with it seem to be the way of the future. More and more Fortune 500 companies are adopting this style of management and see their overall performance improve than ever before. Soon enough, I believe, the United States Armed Forces will look to adopt this concept when it comes to soldiering troops. This is why it is vitally important to understand how to be an effective servant leader, as the future is closer than you think.
- Sendjaya, Sen; Sarros, James C. (2002-09-01). ‘Servant Leadership: Its Origin, Development, and Application in Organizations’. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies. 9 (2): 57–64. doi:10.1177/107179190200900205. ISSN 1548-0518.
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