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Leadership Unveiled: The Silent Strength of Self-Awareness and Service

Updated: Apr 7

Self-awareness is one of the most sought-after skills in hiring executives.

A recent Harvard Business Review study found that most leaders think they are self-aware, but not surprisingly, less than 15% have the skills to make that claim.

Instead of asking how to become more self-aware, start by asking how you can serve. What can you do better to show up and be there for your customers, colleagues, vendors, and even the barista you get your coffee from every morning?

The story below is a favorite of mine from one of Dave Trott's classics, The Power of Ignorance, showcasing the incredible impact of quality service, a reminder of just how impactful true servant leadership can be.

"The best sniper rifle in the world is the Barrett M107. It’s a 50-caliber semiautomatic rifle and fires a bullet twice the size and power of a normal brand. It's accurate to well over a mile.
So the world's elite forces use the Barrett M107.
In Afghanistan, a unit of US Marines got into a firefight. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, they were equipped with a Barrett rifle.
But the Barrett kept jamming, the one thing you don't want a gun to do in a firefight. This was now a life-or-death situation.
So a young marine did the one thing only an American would think to do. Something that wouldn't even occur to a soldier of any other nationality in combat.
As the marine was in a firefight, he was too far from base to call for the armorer, and he didn't have any tools with him. So he called Barrett Firearms Manufacturing in Tennessee, USA.
When the receptionist answered, he asked to be put through to customer service.
Don Cook was the person who took the call. He asked what the problem was, he could hear the sound of a firefight in the background.
The young marine explained that his gun was jamming. He wondered if customer service could help.
Don Cook identified the problem, the lower receiver was bent. He was able to suggest what we would call a hack. He told the young marine to remove the bolt carrier and use the bottom part of it to bend the lower receiver back into position.
The young marine reassembled the Barrett and fired a few rounds. When they were both satisfied it was working properly, the marine thanked him and hung up to continue the firefight.
The whole process had taken less than a minute. Now THAT is what you call customer service. In combat where it literally means the difference between life and death."

Service is never the shiny object; it's the foundation waiting to be unearthed. Seeking opportunities to serve reveals the true value of skills like active listening, empathy, and emotional intelligence. As you embrace these, you'll find yourself eager to learn and grow—not for personal gain, but to offer the best version of yourself to others.

Reflection Questions:
  • How responsive is your organization when prospects and customers reach out? Can a customer count on you during an emergency? Can they expect a timely response, or do you make them wait on hold? Are there opportunities where customers will rave about just how personable and timely you are and how amazing it is to work with you?

  • Are you fully present with colleagues and casual acquaintances? Something as simple as keeping your phone in your pocket, or moving your chair away from being able to reach your keyboard or look at a screen so that your full attention is one the individual that just walked into your office can make the world of difference.

  • What are you doing to create more opportunities to listen to more than the usual contributors? Do you create the space for introverts and extroverts alike to speak up? Do your colleagues feel like they can share and collaborate on an equal playing field towards a positive outcome, or does pride and envy get in the way of progress?



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