On a cold, dark winter morning, a soldier rode out of his encampment and noticed a group of his comrades desperately trying to put a log on the top of a wall they were building. Each time they attempted it, the beam fell. The men were exhausted and ready to give up. The only thing stopping them from throwing in the towel was a corporal, who was barking orders.
The soldier asked the noncommissioned officer why he didn’t lend a hand. “Don’t you see, I’m a corporal?” he answered, not realizing who he was talking to. Without saying a word, the soldier dismounted and helped the infantrymen put the timber in place. He then told the men that if they needed any assistance again, just send for him—their commander and chief.
Why would George Washington take time to help build a wall? Because the man who would become the father of our country knew that the war could not be won without the loyalty of his troops. Our country’s success depended on their success. And the way he accomplished this task was through servant leadership.
Start growing in business and leadership with tactical tools, advice and resources delivered to your inbox every week.
Today, more than 230 years later, his actions are still applicable. In fact, servant leadership is how Dave has built his company and is one of the guiding principles he teaches in EntreLeadership Master Series.
So this Fourth of July week, we thought we would honor our first president by sharing some of his values that you can put in place in your own business. Here are some lessons from Mr. Washington on how to become a true servant leader.
1. Have Fanatical Integrity
Everyone knows the story of Washington and the cherry tree. But that moment of truthfulness was just the start of a life overflowing with integrity. Through his words and deeds, he proved over and over again that he would do the right thing and could be absolutely trusted.
How to Do It: Action always speaks louder than words. By doing your best each day, always telling the truth, and simply behaving as a stand-up person, you will build loyalty within your team. As Dave says, “Loyalty is born and a quality culture occurs when the EntreLeader follows through in a predictable, positive and proactive manner on every issue and opportunity.”
2. Be a Good Listener
Part of being a servant leader is listening to those around you. And Washington did just that. He surrounded himself with people who were willing to tell him the truth instead of advisors who simply said what he wanted to hear. He was with his men whenever possible too, even staying with them during the miserable winter of 1777 at Valley Forge under very un-officer-like conditions.
How to Do It: Spend time with the troops in the trenches instead of locking yourself away in your office. Get to know them and their families, and ask their opinions to get the real answers. Find some mentors who can help lead you in the best direction.
3. Do Unto Others
Washington spent as much time trying to feed, arm and clothe his soldiers as he did actually leading the troops into battle. He always put others first—including enemy prisoners who he housed and fed. As a servant leader, he followed the Golden Rule. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).
How to Do It: Love your team well. When you would expect to be praised, praise. When you would expect a raise, give one. If you need some grace, give it. When you expect a reprimand, do it promptly and privately, because that is what you would want.
Putting the needs of his troops and his country before his own and treating everyone he met with dignity and respect helped make Washington an icon to the world. By following his simple principles, you can inspire the same loyalty within your team, who will soon stand by your side and help you become more successful than you ever dreamed possible.