Self or servant, which characterizes your leadership?

| October 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathon Todd
Battalion Chaplain
25th Infantry Division

There is an old saying: “A person is only a leader if there are others following them.”



In the military culture, the intangible quality of leadership is part of who we are and who we aspire to become. Too often, however, the privileges associated with leadership can overshadow the responsibilities that define its existence in the first place.

Some symptoms associated with poor leadership are a lack of concern for others and the climate of the organization. For example, a piece of our modern American culture conveys one should use whatever authority, tools and influence they have to elevate themselves in wealth, position or status. This kind of leadership may include the goal of gathering and exercising power by one person at the top with regard only for self. This concept runs directly contrary to the Army leadership principles.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, is a concept known as “servant leadership.”

Servant Leadership. I was asked recently to define the concept of servant leadership, and the best example I could think of was displayed by Jesus Christ.

The author and leadership expert Robert Greenleaf is quoted as saying, “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong.”

One of the best examples of servant leadership is given by Jesus in the gospel of John 13:3-6. Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

This ultimate example of servant leadership began with recognition of who was in charge. Jesus recognized his first action is to set aside his power and take the role of a servant to those people who followed him. He humbled himself and washed their feet, an act that usually fell to a lowly house servant.

Jesus had spent the previous three years building up his followers through encouragement, personal care, mentorship and constant teaching. He established multiple training events allowing his followers to step out on their own, assigned roles and tasks suited to their capabilities, and, when needed, he admonished them for their wrongdoing, but he always picked them back up afterwards.

After such an amazing three years of leading these people, as he sees the end of his time among them on earth coming to an end, Jesus teaches them this essential leadership lesson of being ready and willing to step out of the spotlight and care for your people.

In the stress-filled days we now face in our military culture, every leader I know has the essential responsibility to care for the needs of their people and simultaneously accomplish an astounding amount of mission needs.

Our leaders at all levels are doing more with less, and it can be easy to become overwhelmed with the needs of our people and the amount of work we have to do.

It can be easy to disregard one in favor of the other. It can be easy to overlook the one thing that makes us leaders – our people.

Today I encourage each of us to re-examine ourselves. Let us consider our priorities and (as needed) rebalance them to ensure we never neglect those people we are responsible to care for, prepare and lead.

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Category: Footsteps in Faith, Leadership, News, Standing Columns

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