In this blog I would like to explain how personally adopting a servant leadership style has rewarded me as the leader. In a previous blog located here, I revealed how working for a pseudo-transformational leader led me to categorically reject the selfishness the was the foundation of his leadership style and caused me to adopt a servant leadership style. At the time, I was completely unaware of any leadership theory and had no idea a concept like servant leadership existed. Nonetheless, I acted in a manner consistent with the practice of servant leadership. Over time became aware of the theory, which not only explained to me why what I was doing worked. It also helped me continue to develop as a leader. I have always felt a level of satisfaction from being a servant leader, but the benefits go beyond mere gratification.
According to Northouse (2016), servant leadership is unique in its altruistic nature. Unlike every other leadership theory servant leadership stresses the importance of empowering followers by relinquishing control (Northouse, 2016). Spears (as cited by Northouse, 2016) identified ten characteristics of a servant leader. Awareness, persuasion, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community are some of those traits I instinctively performed before even hearing about servant leadership theory. My awareness centered around understanding my position as leader did not place me above my followers. In any organization, every member of that organization serves a role to the group. The leader is not above the group. They are simply performing their assigned role within the group. As an Army leader I feel that me soldiers do not work for me. I work for them and they work for the American people. It may sound like a phrase meant for propaganda, but I truly believe it and remind my soldier often of that belief.
Stewardship is another characteristic I display. Stewardship of the positions I hold. A unique characteristic of Army life is I do not own the positions I hold. I am just a caretaker for a short period of time attempting to uphold the honor of serving in that position. The Army has a long history and each organization within it does as well. For every senior position I have held in the Army, there are pictures on the wall showing the past leaders that have held the same position. There will be many more added after mine. It is this understanding that guides me in the commitment to growth within the organization.
Servant leaders are committed to the development and growth of the members of their organization (Northouse, 2016). I am keenly aware that those who follow me are the next generation of leaders in the Army. Their development ensures the Army will continue to have excellent leaders in the future. I encouraged my soldiers to seek educational opportunities both in professional military courses and seeking higher civilian education. I often did this by sacrificing my own needs. The main reason I am 46 years old and just now completing my BS in OLEAD is because I would gladly provide one of my followers the opportunity to attend courses, even if it meant I could not.
This blog, however, is not meant to show myself as some super selfless servant leader. In fact, what is important to note is the reciprocation of servant leadership by followers resulting in many direct benefits to both the organization and the leader. When a leader has the humility, they tend to the needs of the follower altruistically (Russell, 2016). When the follower recognizes their needs being met in this manner their trust and commitment to the leader solidifies the leader’s legitimate power (Russell, 2016). Organizational commitment increases resulting in low turnover and increased customer satisfaction (Russell, 2016). The organizations I lead have routinely had the highest levels of soldiers requesting to reenlist with the option to stay in the unit as opposed to transferring to another. Furthermore, I am able to direct my soldiers across the battlefield in some of the harshest conditions without fear of losing their commitment. The trust built provides me the legitimate power to order my followers to at times risk their lives without their seemingly unquestioned loyalty. It is only through their accurate belief that I have their best interests in mind with every decision I make that legitimate power is gained.
Servant leadership is a style of leadership that is personally rewarding to a selfless leader. The benefits go beyond just self-gratification though. Organizational commitment and performance are increased. Customer satisfaction and profit margins increase as well (Russell, 2016). The Army does not have customers, nor does it have profit margins. However, through servant leadership, overall organizational effectiveness is improved as well as soldier satisfaction.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice. Los Angeles: Sage.
Russell, E. J. (2016). Servant leadership’s cycle of benefit. Servant Leadership: Theory & Practice, 3(1), 3. Retrieved from http://csuepress.columbusstate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1009&context=sltp