Leadership and the Army Profession: Serve Or Follow

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The purpose of this text is to compare and contrast Followership and the philosophy of Servant Leadership as they pertain to the Army, leadership and the army profession both facets are important to the structure and operation of a healthy team or a unit. Each one, however, has a unique role in the dynamic of the team and is a requirement for any organization. The Soldiers fulfilling these roles are multifaceted in the form of being expected to act in both roles, sometimes simultaneously. To that end, we must look at what makes each role unique, and what traits they share in common. This will help to define them and their objectives.

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By definition, Servant leadership is “a philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve.”  This differs from what many might consider a more traditional method of leadership in which an individual has elected to lead to accomplish a goal or to command a team or an organization. With Servant Leadership, that individual is inclined to use their position to better their subordinates. They tend to shape their Soldiers and develop them into more experienced and more effective service members. Servant Leaders build rapport with their Soldiers, creating a group of individuals with a sense of community and high esprit de corps. To take a term from the Leadership Requirements Model (LRM), Servant Leaders steward the profession. They shape the next generation of leaders and Soldiers. These traits are what define a Servant Leader.

Followership is a more diverse role compared to that of a Leadership position. In an article titled “In Praise of Followers,” Robert E Kelley says that what can make or break an organization are the people not in charge, that they depend entirely “… based on how well their followers follow.”. He provides a graphic that places those in a follower role into five categories on a three-dimensional spectrum. It can be determined from it, that followers who are active in their unit and use critical thinking to solve attack their tasks are the ones that bring the most to the table. It’s this mindset that the Army instills in its lower enlisted, its “followers”. Good followers strive to contribute to their unit and gain as much knowledge of their profession as possible. It is their job to be good students as well as Soldiers.

In the Army, just as much if not more so, Soldiers are expected to fulfill multiple roles. Everyone down to the lowest Private can act as both a follower and a Leader. Even Sergeants or managers have bosses. Not everyone will end up being a Servant Leader, but those that do tend to accomplish more and have a better relationship with their Soldiers. Both Followership and Servant Leadership are philosophies geared toward developing as soldiers. Good followership is being eager to learn and that is what turns those Soldiers into effective Leaders. Servant Leadership is using your position to serve your subordinates as a mentor and a guide. Soldiers take what they have learned as followers and use that to develop their team. It is because of this cyclical connection that both philosophies are so similar.

In conclusion, Followership and Servant Leadership are two very similar philosophies that are paramount for an organization’s success. It is the Leader’s job to take those followers and shape them into effective followers, someone who will learn that leader’s job. In turn, that follower will one day become a leader, who will, in turn, steward the profession by raising more effective followers. As they pertain to the Army, in questions of leadership and the army profession. These philosophies act as desired goals for all Soldiers, lower enlisted, noncommissioned officers, and commissioned officers to achieve.

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