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Monday, May 29, 2017


Last Monday, Rhonda and I were returning from a wonderful few days at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with five other couples. The group was comprised of friends with whom I met weekly while in Pittsburgh. We’ve savored several of these reunions over the years, but this one had added meaning; it’s been 25 years since we first gathered.

Fortunately, our spouses get along well, so we had a sweet time and plenty of good food. My long time friend, Sam Deep, and wife Dianne have moved to Myrtle Beach and they made numerous arrangements for us to have fun. Last week, Sam also contributed to my blog by sharing verses from the Bible that have influenced his business leadership thinking.

One of those passages was Mark 10:42-45, which has Jesus telling His disciples to learn the heart of a servant. Of course, Jesus demonstrated this with His entire ministry life. His challenge that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” should cause us each to live with a different mindset.

As Sam noted, today there are plenty of books and workshops on the subject of servant leadership. Human beings are best validated by this approach. The workplace culture led by people who practice serving impacts everyone.

Since this is Memorial Day, I would like to add another “spin” on this topic. Just about everywhere you go where you find past and present military members, people say, “Thank you for your service!” It is recognized that military duty is truly the work of protecting our freedoms.

The best of the military men and women in leadership know that serving their unit is a requirement. This is illustrated in an article titled, “Why the Military Produces Great Leaders,” by Tom Kolditz. Tom is the former chairman of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point and is currently director of the Leadership Development Program at the Yale School of Management.

Tom listed three reasons why the military yields great leaders. His third reason included this: “Perhaps most importantly, military leadership is based on a concept of duty, service, and self-sacrifice; we take an oath to that effect. We view our obligations to followers as a moral responsibility, defining leadership as placing follower needs before those of the leader, and we teach this value priority to junior leaders.”

He notes that military leadership goes well beyond the service member. Caring for their families is part of the mission, especially when those who serve are deployed. I observed this during my short time in the Air Force and in later years.

Here is one of Tom’s keenest observations. “The best leadership—whether in peacetime or war—is borne as a conscientious obligation to serve. In many business environs it is difficult to inculcate a value set that makes leaders servants to their followers. In contrast, leaders who have operated in the crucibles common to military and other dangerous public service occupations tend to hold such values,” states Kolditz.

Of course, not every person of military training acts with noble character. Especially those who are drafted and serve out of obligation. But millions have benefited from the values taught throughout our service branches.

On this Memorial Day, we should be reminded of the many who have died in a true manner of service and selflessness. We have ample stories of heroes who stepped in harm's way to save the life of a team member. Far too many more had their lives on this earth shortened while engaged in the protection of our country and our freedoms.

We show our appreciation by honoring those men and women today. As Jesus of Nazareth said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV)

It’s worthy of a salute.

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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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