Servant Leadership in Basic Combat Training Part 2

By: Wendy Almengor
3-60 living patch

Fort Jackson is the largest training center in the Army with over 45,000 volunteer civilians entering yearly, hoping to become part of the Army team. With such a vast number of Trainees transforming into the Army’s newest Soldiers, leaders within the installation must strive to be the best teachers, coaches and mentors. The installation mission states that Fort Jackson is “consistently recognized for excellence.” On an installation that is known for having the largest throughput of Trainees, this excellence is in part due to the professionalism and discipline of those working on the installation.

I have often heard and even used the phrase, “would I like to lead the Soldiers that I trained?” As a commander, I have asked myself the opposite, “am I the leader these new Soldiers would want to work for?” Leaders can impact a unit and within Basic Combat Training (BCT), these impacts shape a new Soldier’s belief about the military.

The Army defines leadership as “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”[1]  Leaders influence their subordinates using purpose, direction, and motivation. The Leadership Requirements Model from FM 6-22 further breaks down the basic components that center on what a leader is and does.


Five leadership styles are found within the Army: transactional, transformational, servant, autocratic, and followership.[2]

Transactional leadership focuses on results, rewards, and penalties. Goals are identified by leaders who track a subordinate’s performance and motivate subordinates through rewards. The leadership style is good for immediate action yet limits a person’s creativity and initiative.

Transformational leadership leads through example. The style encourages sharing of ideas and empowers subordinates to be part of the solution. Leaders who use this style inspire subordinates to be part of a change in the unit. The style, however, does not work well in situations with limited information as in the initial development of decision-making.

Servant leaders develop their subordinates by putting the needs of the Soldiers’ before the leader’s. The leadership style requires trust between subordinates and leaders. The style is best established over time as trust builds over time.

The autocratic leadership style requires leaders to be decision makers with clear mission and intent. The style utilizes minimal input from subordinates, although opinions of subordinates are heard and respected. Leaders who use this method often make the correct decisions during situations.

Followership is best used with subordinates who understand implied tasks and go beyond the initial instructions given, anticipating a leader’s needs. The relationship management between leaders and subordinates is strong, allowing the subordinates to approach leaders with problems and solutions to issues.

Although a variety of leadership styles exist, it is my belief that servant leadership is the most effective. Although all styles work within BCT, servant leadership empowers subordinates, creates mutual trust within a company, and models effective behavior for Trainees to learn and develop for their military career. Servant Leadership was first coined by Robert Greenleaf in 1970. He believed that before anyone could lead, they must first be a servant.[3]  This leadership style emerges from “characteristics of empathy, listening, stewardship, and commitment to personal growth toward others.”[4] Essential to the attributes and competencies of an Army leader as proposed by the Leadership Requirements Model are the characteristics of servant leadership.


The Army’s rhythm is to “train Soldiers, grow them into leaders.”[5] This maxim is the foundation of Initial Entry Training (IET). Fort Jackson is a premier center for servant leadership where servant leaders must also be teachers in order to develop their followers. At BCT “teacher” largely equates to a Drill Sergeant. In his essay, Greenleaf focuses on answering the questions, “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”[6] Over a ten-week cycle, Drill Sergeants teach, coach, and mentor civilians, transforming them into Soldiers. Trainees becomes wiser on Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, increase self-awareness and autonomy, able to carry out certain tasks with minimal instruction as they transition into Blue Phase. I recall the Drill Sergeants I had during my BCT experience, fresh in my military career. They were first in helping me to develop into the leader I am today.

As a commander and senior officer within my organization I have a duty to teach, coach, and mentor the junior officers. Their development is paramount to how they will execute the next phase in their career. Individuals with the potential for continued development and leadership stay in the military and grow into leaders. Getting to know a subordinate’s goals, both personally and professionally is important as I may be able to help them achieve these goals. If an individual’s priorities are met, devotion to the unit increases, thereby achieving mission success. 


Mature leaders spend their energy on self-improvement.[7] Leader development can also come through failure as learning does not take place in the absence of mistakes. Leaders allow subordinates to learn and grow from these experiences. By allowing my subordinates to be innovative in how we accomplish training events, we have been successful at finding the best methods to achieve mission success, or the freedom to learn from the mistakes made. Although a logistical inconvenience at first, things such as misinterpreted transportation times, having the ammo detail show up at the wrong range, or coming up short on training aids for a full fill, these instances are equipped with lessons learned and growth opportunities for BCT leaders, ensuring the same mistakes are avoided in the future. In BCT, leaders can empower their subordinates by asking for input when making decisions. From the routes taken to reach a training site, to transportation times, and picking the dates for training events of a cycle, there are endless opportunities for subordinates to help develop training and schedules.

One of the best ways to develop leaders in BCT is to perform engaged leadership. Having presence and being present do not equate to the same things. A commander’s best place to be is at their unit’s training, engaging their subordinates, both cadre and Trainees. By showing up and having a positive presence at training others witness what the leader holds as important. After having given clear guidance and intent on what is to be expected at the training event, showing up to supervise the execution and confidence of subordinates who are achieving the mission is another step towards leader development.


Soldiers learn to be good leaders from good leaders.[8]  The most important aspect of leadership is those around you, particularly subordinates who are inspired to act and become great leaders because of the example you have shown them. The Army is filled with leaders who accomplish the mission in different ways, however the role of a leader is most fundamentally to help their subordinates succeed. People are the number one priority in the Army, symbolizing that leaders must put service before self.

Effective leaders are teachable and lead with a humble heart. With stewardship at the heart of the Army profession, servant leadership offers a multitude of opportunities to lead and develop others as well as opportunities to solicit feedback from subordinates for the leader to grow. Leaders must maintain life-long learners, teaching and learning through development of oneself and others, reading, using lessons learned and best practices. After providing the team with the resources they need to accomplish the mission, a leader must maintain an environment in which the team can succeed. When leaders give a bit of themselves for the greater good of the organization, those within the organization are most apt to give back, helping to achieve mission success.

Check out part 1 of this story if you missed it.


CPT Wendy Almengor is a Military Intelligence Officer who currently commands Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment at Fort Jackson, SC. Prior to her command, she was the 3/60th IN BN S3. Her prior assignments include working in BN and BDE S2 shops and working as a Platoon Leader.


[1] Leader Development, Field Manual 6-22 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, June 30, 2015), pdf.

[2] “Mastering the Art of Dynamic Leadership.” NCO Journal, (2018)

[3] Greenleaf, Robert K., “The Servant as a Leader,” The Center for Servant Leadership, (1970)

[4] Kenton, Will, “Servant Leadership,” (2019)

[5] Hesselbein, Frances, Be, Know, Do: Leadership the Army Way. Leader to Leader Institute, (2004)

[6] Greenleaf, Robert K., “The Servant as a Leader,” The Center for Servant Leadership, (1970)

[7] Hesselbein, Frances, Be, Know, Do: Leadership the Army Way. Leader to Leader Institute, (2004)

[8] Hesselbein, Frances, Be, Know, Do: Leadership the Army Way. Leader to Leader Institute, (2004)