Servant Leader's Manifesto & When Your Life Depends on It
Omar L. Harris / Brad Borkan & David Hirzel
The Servant Leader’s Manifesto
By Omar L. Harris
Servant Leader, a title often claimed but is it truly understood, and concepts put into practice? As a military leader coming up through the ranks in the late ’90s, and early 2000s I am all too familiar with the top-down style of leadership and for a time it was my style of leadership. We had a line in our Non-Commissioned Officer’s creed that stated “My two basic responsibilities will all ways be uppermost in my mind, the accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers” too often leaders would neglect the “and” putting mission above all else neglecting the soldier’s needs. All the while if only leaders understood that taking care of the soldiers would have resulted in better results in the mission. As I matured as a leader and became a father, I realized the value of the servant leadership style. Getting to know my soldiers (employees), understanding their needs, and trying to meet as many of those needs as possible while pursuing a common goal yielded far greater value and customer (commander) satisfaction every time with the bonus of higher morale.
This book to me is a good guide to servant leadership style, I will be keeping it on hand for time-to-time reference and bearing checks. Being a good servant leader starts with focusing on yourself, defining your own purpose or mission, are you doing what you are meant to do? Do you have a passion for what you doing? If you do not, how can you inspire that in your employees? Then develop goals (Short, medium, long) for your mission, make daily habits to achieve those goals, and track your progress making corrections along the way. Be the role model you want your employees to emulate proactively, focused, and accountable.
You do not have to be in a position of authority to be a servant leader, because they lead through influence rather than authority. Leadership is often the art of persuasion influencing others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation. Servant leader derives their authority through understanding that the mission is bigger than themselves and by building trust. Servant leaders seek the way of the Jedi wielding the force of influence, naturally seeking to develop people. The Jedi is a Master of Psychology leveraging the strengths of their employees and creating hope in their people by investing in them.
Servant leaders understand that success lies in the team, not the individual(s), and matches the compatible strengths of individuals to form a cohesive team, then empowers the team to accomplish the mission. We should begin every task with the end in mind knowing where we want to go and what it will take to get there, while yet understanding that there is no winning in this game only the perpetuation of it. Central to our principles as servant leaders is humanity, and we lead with love.
In Emergency Management we should always take the time to get to know the people on our team and to understand their motivations, passions, and needs. Investing in the team and supporting their ambitions will indeed result in greater outcomes.
Understand your employee’s strengths and form teams based on their compatible strengths. Don’t focus on their weaknesses and spend unnecessary time trying to improve them, that time is better spent building up their strengths, and focus on the talents and results of the team, not the individual.
Build trust within your team(s), empower them to do what needs to be done, and always assume positive intent in their actions.
LEAD WITH LOVE!
When Your Life Depends on It
By Brad Borkan & David Hirzel
Can you imagine being exhausted, starved with scurvy sets in, on the verge of death from extreme cold exposure, and having to make life or death decisions? These are the conditions that the subjects of this book faced as they explored Antarctica in the early 1900s where the level of pre-expedition planning and decision machining (before and during the expeditions) was the difference between mission success or failure, and life or death of the party. The men are these expeditions had to endure the unforgiving environment of the Antarctic for months as they sought to be the first to reach the south pole all for the personal and national pride of being the first to do so.
Leaders make very important decisions every day and as Emergency Managers, some of those decisions could be life or death decisions, but these decisions are made when we are rested, in our climate-controlled offices or EOCs, with full bellies, and with resources at our disposal. As systems start to go down and resources get depleted (ie. your food plan fails) how do you respond as an Emergency Manager? Do you train for this type of scenario? I think this is the level our training(s) should take us to induce this stress to see how our teams respond, working long hours and taking away some regularly scheduled feeding is sure to identify some character gaps.
I enjoyed reading this book, the stories were thrilling, the lesson is applicable for leaders today, and the structure was well laid out. I think Emergency Managers can benefit from the lessons and strategies that Shackelton and the other early Antarctic explorers learned through their expeditions.
Meet decisions head-on and make the best of a bad decision, we do not always have the right answer to the problems we face, and sometimes we must make decisions with minimal information.
Engage your team and involve them in the decision-making process, this will ensure buy-in, understanding, and agility when it is time to pivot.
Know your “Why”, find inspiration around you, and infect your team with it.
Set bold goals but if you do not reach them don’t discard the achievements made along the way reframing what success looks like.
NEVER GIVE UP!