Servant Leadership in the Military

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I know my Soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own. The Creed of a Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) validates how leaders in the Army have many characteristics of a servant leader. Servant leaders display qualities and characteristics that most people do not associate with a leader. Most people believe a leader is a command figure that gives orders and only cares about their power. Servant leaders dispel these myths by leading by example and placing their subordinates’ needs above their own. Servant leaders are selfless, humble, and generous.

The major change in leadership happened in 1970. An executive, Robert K. Greenleaf, was the first one to bring the words “servant” and “leader” together. This ignited a complete reconstruction of how leaders engaged with their subordinates. Leaders began moving away from the traditional hierarchical template. They began taking a more active role in their subordinates’ development. In doing so, they ensured there was no interference with the task given. This meant servant leaders need to cultivate trust with their subordinates. The changes that Robert Greenleaf implemented are still prevalent in today’s servant leadership model.

One common misconception about leadership is that leaders cannot connect with the personnel they are over. This myth comes from the assumption that leaders cannot enforce the standard if they are too friendly with the workers. Getting to know your workers and being a leader are not mutually exclusive. NCOs in the Army inspire Soldiers daily because they get to know their Soldiers. The NCO connects with them and understands the issues their personnel are dealing with at any given time. This is why the Army functions at such a high level. The Soldiers trust that the NCO has their best interest in mind. This gives Soldiers greater assurance that their leader makes the best decision possible. This dispels the myth that leaders can only rule with an iron fist and shows that you can lead by caring about your Soldiers.

Servant leaders uphold the standard and lead by example. The Creed of a Noncommissioned Officer states, “I am proud of the corps of Noncommissioned officers and will at all times conduct myself so as to bring credit upon the Corps, the Military Service, and my country regardless of the situation in which I find myself.” This statement is an example of how Army leaders set the standard through action. The statement shows how a Soldier’s actions not only affect them, but three other entities; the Corps, the Military, and their country. Although they are in a position of leadership, NCOs do not blindly bark orders at their Soldiers. All direction given comes from that NCO’s military experience and knowledge. Soldiers can trust that their NCO does not give an order they would not do themselves, or have not already done. NCOs set the attitude for other leaders to follow through their actions, no matter the given situation.

Additionally, in the creed, NCOs vow to earn the respect and confidence of others. This includes officers who rank above them, peers who are in the same position as them, and the Soldiers appointed to them. Servant leaders flip the traditional power pyramid upside down. Most people would think that if you are in a leadership position you have nothing left to prove. This is not the case for leadership in the Army. Servant leaders exist to serve the people. They gain the confidence of their subordinates and motivate them to accomplish any mission or task laid before them.

Lida Citroën describes military Servant leadership as a concept based on duty, service, and self-sacrifice. Servant leaders do not fit the typical mold of a leader. Much of the American population have not served in the military. Those people that have served showed self-sacrifice that others are unable or unwilling to give. This sense of duty and sacrifice are key to being a servant leader. The duty of a NCO is to develop their Soldiers. NCOs may have to sacrifice their time as Soldiers grow and develop their own leadership styles. Leaders must understand the people they are over are watching them. Those personnel are watching to grasp the standard. This is extremely important for leaders in the military because of the various situations those leaders face. In the last paragraph of the NCO Creed it states NCOs will earn the respect and confidence of the Soldiers and will not compromise their integrity. If you do not have the respect and confidence of your subordinates, the mission is not accomplished. It is clear the Army, and the entire military, is changing the common leadership style and moving toward an effective servant leadership.


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Servant Leadership in the Military. (2022, Feb 06). Retrieved December 4, 2023 , from

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