In Australia, we are concluding a week that had Easter at one end and Anzac Day at the other. It’s a period when we tend to focus on what sacrifice, freedom, quality of life and the value of humankind are all about. Sacrifice is the price of entry for leadership. Fundamentally because the more responsibility you have, the fewer rights you have. It’s paradoxical, you can rise to the dizzy heights of power, even ultimate power, within your team or organisation, but what they most mean is you have ultimate responsibility for mission, culture, and your people.
Ego won’t get you there, sacrifice will.
I’ll readily admit to loving most things military when it comes to what’s on TV. From the latest A list to the more obscure Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War, I find them interesting and enjoyable. One of my more recent finds is the Netflix Documentary titled ‘The Medal of Honour’ where they tell and reenact the life of Medal of Honour recipients.
In episode three, they tell the story of Edward Carter, an African American soldier who gave up his rank to fight on the frontline because, in the 1940s as a black American, he was not able to have a rank higher than a white soldier. After his tank was taken out by German soldiers he and a small group of men (All African American) moved slowly across a grassy field towards the enemy. Two of his men were killed and one seriously wounded. Carter engaged the Germans, killing six and taking two into custody while being seriously injured in the process and at the same time interrogated them for intelligence that led to the success of his platoons next manoeuvre. With no rank, with no standing and with no legitimacy Edward Carter served and sacrificed. Edward Carter earned his Medal of Honour on March 23rd 1945 and was awarded his Medal of Honour on January 13th 1997. Sacrifice like that with a fifty-two year lag for recognition requires deep humility and conviction.
Leadership must begin with putting ego aside in favour of the collective good. Like what Robert Greenleaf says in his seminal work on Servant Leadership.
“Ego focuses on one’s own survival, pleasure, and enhancement to the exclusion of others; ego is selfishly ambitious. It sees relationships in terms of threat or no threat, like little children who classify all people as “nice” or “mean.” Conscience, on the other hand, both democratises and elevates ego to a larger sense of the group, the whole, the community, the greater good. It sees life in terms of service and contribution, in terms of others’ security and fulfilment.”
Robert K Greenleaf – Servant Leadership
We all remember leaders who genuinely had our development and best interests at heart don’t we? Even if there are challenges along the way, knowing they are for us and not for themselves changed the game when it came to signing on to the vision, playing team and living up to our potential. Perhaps even more so we remember the leaders who paid a high price to lead, and for some of the military stories I spoke of earlier, some paid the ultimate price.
Sacrifice in leadership isn’t just one thing. It’s the combination of things that can lead us to a place of laying down our lives for the benefit of others. It’s the combination of why who and when. It’s the intersection of those things real time and in real life. It looks like this:
Model – On Sacrifice
The model explained:
Leadership is an elegant combination of a cause, the people and moments. It isn’t one thing more than the other, it’s the combination and the relationships between them.
- The cause is the ‘why’ we are in this together, it’s the glue that binds us.
- The people are the ‘who’ we are with, solving problems, adding value, making meaning.
- The moment is the ‘when’ of true servant leadership. It’s the point of no return FOR others.
These combine to create three legitimately powerful currencies in servant leadership.
- Motivation – comes from the cause and the people. It makes it human.
- Perspective – is the combination of the cause the moment. It makes it real.
- Opportunity – is the connection between the moment and the person. It makes it now!
When you interview “heroes” they rarely tell of how they planned to be that way at that moment. In many cases, it was more than based on their role, responsibility, training and sense of duty at that point in time. They did what their leadership instincts told them to do, they sacrificed, served, led and were courageous beyond all reasonable expectation. There is almost always a time a and place, a moment when the leadership you know meets a situation that requires something from you that may cost you everything. And sometimes it does.
Most often I end my blog with some short, practical and helpful next steps. Today I want to end with people who exemplify sacrifice.
- My wife Megan, what a gift, not just to me but the world. Clever, articulate, elegant and deeply purpose driven. Her best days are ahead and I’m glad I get to see them become a reality.
- My Dad, Rodney Dredge, the more you know my Dad and his story the easier it is to respect, admire, and honour him. Husband to one, father to five, Papa to fourteen. Legend.
- My Father in Law, John Howard, a more beautiful servant-hearted human you will not find. He intends to ski with his grandchildren when they let him do it for free (tha
- Rob Goudswaard, CEO of CUA and a friend for more than a decade. His corporate leadership has inspired me with his balance of drive, wisdom and innovation.
- Joel and Ellen Cave, leading one of the fastest growing Churches in Australia and deeply committed to a rogue’s view of the world. They are great friends and also an inspiring combination of creativity, humility and drive.
- John Allison, who recruited me in 2008 for the most beautiful and most difficult job I have ever had. A man of wisdom, insight, tenacity, patience and perseverance.
- Peter Lusk, who I led alongside for eight years and is now changing the quality of life for kids through Southern Cross Kids Camp. He exemplifies servant leadership to me.
- Matt Church and Peter Cook, Have both changed the course of my life for the last ten years. They are sensationally successful in their own right and yet passionate about the success of others.
- Darren and Alison Hill, who are building a unique experience in organisational culture, strategy and innovation by being disruptively and authentically normal. High-quality people.
As Robert K Greenleaf said, “The servant-leader is servant first, it begins with a natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first, as opposed to, wanting power, influence, fame, or wealth.”
Thank you, we remember the price you have paid and are paying. I’m grateful you’ve led in this way.
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.