Note: This is part of a series. Read part one here.
The Australian Army and Special Forces’ unique organisational objectives make it quite difficult to slide the expectations of leaders neatly into just one of the academic theories presented during my studies. The Australian Army and SOCOMD are not businesses in the traditional sense, however there are three theoretical approaches to leadership in particular that reflect my exposure and professional experience within the command—servant, authentic, and transformational styles of leadership.
Servant leadership was founded by Robert Greenleaf as an alternative view of leadership, the most critical aspect of which is its explicit focus on and concern for followers’ needs. Greenleaf defined servant leadership as a practical philosophy which supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions. Servant-leaders value the people within an organization above almost everything else; they give them the freedom to excel, “awakening, engaging, and developing” them by creating an organizational culture whereby opportunities to learn as well as make mistakes is nurtured.
Authentic leadership relies on the notion that the leader in question is trusted, viz. authentic in nature. They are a “what you see is what you get” type of person. Being an authentic leader means first and foremost that your style reflects who you are, not what the literature on leadership says you must be. Rather than trying to emulate characteristic traits and developing the image or persona of the “ideal” leader, authentic leaders use their natural abilities by playing to their strengths and working on their recognised weaknesses. Just like servant leadership, authentic leaders also have a strong desire to serve and empower others, and they do this by developing a leadership style that is transparent and entirely consistent with their personality and character. Essentially, knowing one’s true self and acting in accordance with that true self is the harbinger of authentic leadership.