This year, I have the good fortune of celebrating Christmas with my family at my sister’s house in Bremerton, WA. She is a Navy Lieutenant (O-3) assigned to an aircraft carrier at Naval Base Kitsap. On this Christmas day, we joined her on her carrier to receive a full tour and eat lunch on her ship’s mess deck; it was the best military meal I’ve ever received in my seven-year career. We met many of her Sailors, peers, and superior officers. Characterizing the experience as impressive is an understatement.

Beyond the incredible machinery and systems on that massive vessel, one of the most impressive aspects of my visit was being served Christmas dinner by the ship’s Captain (O-6), his wife and children, and the Command Master Chief (CMC, the ship’s senior enlisted leader). I was humbled to see these leaders not only taking time to spend the holiday with their Sailors, but also include their families. Furthermore, I’ve read multiple accounts today of battalion command teams replacing their Soldiers on duty, company command teams delivering stockings to barracks, and multiple echelons of leaders checking on their formations this holiday.

This led me to reflect on the importance and influence of servant leadership as a military leader. Prioritizing the needs of others in your organization is necessary to build an effective culture and winning team. Taking personal time to spend with your Soldiers and the simple act of serving them shows that you value and respect them. Such simple actions can drastically increase your influence and professional culture in your organization.

Remember to set aside time to care for your Soldiers outside of normal work hours; show them their value to you and your team. You don’t need a holiday like Christmas to practice quality servant leadership. It’s as easy as spending time with your Soldiers or bringing them a meal while on duty throughout the year. An intrinsic motivation for military leaders should be the care of their Soldiers; ensure you materialize it and show that to them.

Merry Christmas to you and your family. Remember your Soldiers and especially the ones that are not able to be with their families.

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