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My theory was really quite simple. People should be valued as individuals and for their ability to make significant contributions to the success of an organization. The age-old appeal that people should do unto others as they would have them do unto them serves as the basis for the concept of servant leadership. In The Servant Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve Bottom-Line Performance (2001), James A. Autry sets the tone for servant leadership when he states, "True leadership, unlike management, is not just a set of skills and learned behaviors. What you do as a leader will depend on who you are."
This is a critical element because people will always see who you are and what you do. They are not able to see the thoughts within your head. How leaders act and how they treat people will serve as the basis for people's judgment of them. Autry goes on to delineate a set of "Five Ways of Being" that underlie his theories regarding servant leadership.
- Be authentic
- Be vulnerable
- Be accepting
- Be present
- Be useful
These basic actions appear to be derivative thoughts that spring from the "Golden Rule." If individuals are doing unto others as they would have others do unto them, each of the above acts, actions or activities would be on the list of things to do.
I believe myself to be a man possessed with a deep and abiding faith that underscores every activity in which I participate. It would seem logical to state that spiritual leadership appears to be an advanced form of servant leadership, albeit with more religious overtones. In a 2002 article titled "Leadership in Turbulent Times Is Spiritual," Margaret J. Wheatley tells us that "many people have a spiritual practice and rely on it to help them succeed as leaders and work colleagues" (Executive Excellence, Volume 19, Issue 9).
Given the number of close calls that I have witnessed during my more than four decades of responding to emergencies, faith seems to be the only way to explain how I have managed to escape unscathed. I developed a style of leadership that placed the needs of my co-workers ahead of my own.
I have undertaken this outline as a means of developing a personal plan of growth and progress in the world of leadership theory. Opportunities for leadership abound in my life, as a fire commissioner, volunteer firefighter, band member, Mason and church member. It is with these things in mind that I undertook this project to study my own life and career. I like to believe that I have crafted a vision for the future. To achieve that vision, improvements to my leadership capabilities must occur. I have undertaken this project in a logical, straightforward manner. It is hoped that the tools and approaches created will yield the desired results.
Conducting a self-assessment is one of the most difficult tasks that anyone can perform. In my next commentary, I will discuss my plan for the future based on my experience as a consultant and in the fire and emergency service world. I will also make great use of the data generated by the battery of assessment instruments used during my time as a student at Capella University. I will go into greater depth to illustrate my example of how a self-assessment plan can help someone to assess his or her skills and lay out a plan for future success.
DR. HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, is a FirehouseÂ® contributing editor. A municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ, he is the former president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Dr. Carter is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. Currently chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners for Howell Township District 2, he retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department in 1999 as a battalion commander. He also served as chief of training and commander of the Hazardous Materials Response Team. Dr. Carter is vice president of the American Branch of the Institution of Fire Engineers (MIFireE). He recently published Living My Dream: Dr. Harry Carter's 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip, which was also the subject of a Firehouse.com blog. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.