“Primus inter pares” (i.e., first among equals) should be the guide for a leader. As I sit and ponder about our country I would hope that somewhere the idea of servant leader is in the Presidents thoughts. The idea that a servant leader is the first among equals is the anchor for every other idea associated with servant leadership.
Robert Greenleaf, the author who coined the term servant leader, called true leadership as“…going beyond one’s self-interest”. The idea of the servant leader is not new; Jesus called men to servant leadership over 2000 years ago when he said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Robert Greenleaf’s servant leadership theory can be divided into six basic categories: empowering and developing people, humility, authenticity, interpersonal acceptance, providing direction, and stewardship. Although it is hard to read the words above and associate them with any contemporary politicians, I hope and pray that those traits become the hallmark of a new generation of leaders.
I guess one thing that I can take heart is that the new administration has a clear vision of what they want to achieve. The one common theme among all of the good leaders I have known was that they all seemed to have a clear vision of where they wanted their organization to go. Conversely, the one common theme amongst the bad leaders I have known was they put themselves and their careers before the welfare of their subordinates, which I unfortunately also see.
Truly, servant leadership is a calling and the person who embraces servant leadership has put his or her ego in check. That kind of wisdom takes maturity and experience, which is in short supply with today’s politicians – regardless of party.
What advice do I have for the incoming leadership of the Executive Branch?
Lesson one: leaders eat last. That means putting your troops and their needs ahead of your own. I learned this from serving with Marines while deployed. Marine officers and NCOs are taught to eat last, rest last, and fight first. This is very much in keeping with the spirit of servant leadership.
Lesson two: there is always someone smarter than you – usually your spouse. I learned this lesson while serving as a linguist with the On-Site Inspection Agency. It was an absolute joy to be surrounded by such talented and capable people. Seeking the advice of your team, friends, and fellow leaders often leads to a better solution than if you had gone with your own idea.
Lesson three: you cannot communicate too much. Almost all problems in an organization or at home can be traced back to a lack of communication, which inevitably leads to a lack of understanding.
Even if this advice does not reach the White House – I hope that our children learn these lessons and use them at home and at work.