The American Legion Department of Tennessee



VOLUME XXXXI, NO. 4                                                                                                                                                                            NOVEMBER 2023

National Commander Seehafer will speak about being a Servant Leader therefore:

What Is a Servant Leader?
“There are many ways to define it,” Herman says, “but my personal favorite goes back to Robert Greenleaf's definition: ‘The servant leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first.’”

The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership further defines servant leadership as “a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.”

What does this mean? It means that a servant leader focuses on the growth and well-being of employees and other stakeholders in their organization. Servant leaders seek to help the people they serve grow as individuals.

“If they are growing, then they desire to perform and achieve,” Herman says. “They have more capability to accomplish things, and therefore they're really serving in return, and it becomes a cycle of positive service and performance, which I believe makes servant leadership exceptional.”

How Does Servant Leadership Differ from Traditional Leadership?
Traditional leadership, Herman notes, focuses on such things as strategy, goals, financial performance, and customer satisfaction. “Those things aren’t bad, of course,” she says. “Those are things we expect leaders to do. We want our CEO to focus on things that are going to bring us profit.

“But servant leaders go further. They focus on providing their employees with development opportunities. Employees today want to feel they have a job where they can succeed. They want an opportunity to be coached and mentored by someone. And since servant leaders put people first, they get to know them on a different level. They help them to develop, they give them opportunities because they empower them versus micromanage them.”

What’s Driving the Growth of Servant Leadership?
“We live in a very fast-paced technological world,” Herman says. “We are inundated with information at such increasingly large levels that it's almost impossible to keep up with. We're people first, and our basic human needs need to be met.

“Servant leaders understand how to build a workplace culture where teams and community are valued. And people want that real feeling of community in the workplace because they don't have it in their lives.”

Herman says our present culture can be disconnecting.

“We are incredibly virtual today,” she says. “We have virtual jobs, serve on virtual teams, and get to know people virtually on social media. We text more than we speak on the phone or face-to-face. Even dating is done on an app—you have the option of swiping left or right to determine if you may want to meet someone. People are craving real relationships and real connections. Plus, this goes back to that whole idea that we all really want to feel we've contributed to the world, that we want work that has true meaning.”

The Benefits of Servant Leadership
Increased employee loyalty and a beloved company culture are benefits of this style of leadership. Productivity and problem-solving are also bolstered with servant leadership.
“Servant-led employees don't fear that if they take a risk and try to do the right thing, they could get punished,” Herman says. “I think that makes them perform at more of a risk-taking level, as long as they're doing it based on the goals, the mission, and the core values of the organization.

“And that ultimately leads to how that business performs,” she says. “If every person is performing at their best, imagine what the organization is going to be like. People who receive coaching and personal development are equipped to be empowered to make decisions to serve their customers. Empowered employees are more engaged, and this increases job satisfaction, which increases retention. You want great people to stay a part of your organization.”

Ten principles of servant leadership
Here are the 10 principles of effective servant leadership to help you become a better leader

1. Listening
Effective servant leaders don’t just speak but listen to what their team has to say. They give ample opportunity for all members to be heard, and then, listen carefully to what is being said and potentially what is not being said.

They give others their full attention, notice coworkers' nonverbal cues, avoid interrupting them when speaking and give constructive feedback. By gathering observations and insight from all team members, servant leaders understand growth opportunities.

Related: How To Improve Your Listening Skills

2. Empathy
Effective servant leaders care about their team on a personal level. They understand that when their team feels happy and fulfilled in their personal lives, it contributes to success in their professional lives.

They value others' perspectives and approach situations with an open mind. Because of this, servant leaders make it a priority to show team members they care about them and try to help them with personal issues when they can.

Read more: How to Be Empathetic in the Workplace

3. Healing
Effective servant leaders understand the importance of fixing problems before moving on to new goals and projects. For example, your team may have suffered a setback last quarter due to a team disagreement. To face the new challenges of this quarter, the team needs to be able to heal and come to an agreement first. Servant leaders make sure their team has the knowledge, support and resources to do their jobs effectively, 

Related: Conflict Resolution Skills: Definition and Examples

4. Self-awareness
Effective servant leaders are aware of themselves and their teams. Self-awareness is the ability to look at yourself, think deeply about your emotions and behavior and consider how they affect the people around you.

In being self-aware, servant leaders accept and grow from their own weaknesses. Just as important is that as leaders, they are aware of their team’s individual strengths and weaknesses to help them grow and learn.

Read more: The Importance of Self Awareness in Leadership

5. Persuasion
Effective servant leaders guide and persuade team members. Where an authoritarian leader might tell team members what to do, a servant leader tells them why it’s the best method or process. They seek to convince the team as a whole and build a consensus.

Related: Persuasion Skills: Definition and Examples

6. Conceptualization
Effective servant leaders can think beyond small tasks and communicate larger goals and why they are important to their teams. They help their team understand their roles and stay motivated while focusing on the company’s long-term objectives and goals. 

Read more: How Conceptual Skills Can Make You a Better Leader

7. Foresight
Effective servant leaders understand the importance of learning from past mistakes and successes and using lessons learned to productively evaluate present decisions. They identify what's happening now and understand the consequences of their decisions and then help their team do the same. They use tools like SWOT analysis to evaluate their current situation and environment and SMART goals to plan ahead.

Related: How To Think Critically: 7 Ways to Improve Your Skills

8. Stewardship
Effective servant leaders acknowledge and understand the importance of their responsibilities. They protect and uphold the trust and confidence given them in their role and communicate this to their team.

As a steward of their company’s assets and goals, they work hard, arrive on time and are dependable. They lead by example, demonstrating the values and behaviors that they want to see in others.

Read more: The Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility

9. Commitment to growth 
Effective servant leaders motivate their teams to grow. They are committed to helping their teams develop professionally.

Servant leaders help their team members become leaders themselves by leading by example and providing their team with opportunities to grow and develop. They also find out what their employees’ personal goals are and give them projects or more responsibilities to help them achieve those goals.

Related: 20 Leadership Skills That Make a Great Leader

10. Building community
Effective servant leaders encourage collaboration and engagement within their organizations. They value the opinions of everyone on their team and encourage them to share those opinions and to actively contribute to the team regularly.

They provide opportunities for interaction through social events, workspace design or by even opening meetings with non-work-related conversations.


VA Pension Debt Notification

VA provides pension payments to wartime Veterans of low income and their survivors. These payments are based on income level, which is self-reported by the Veteran or family member who receives the payments. In addition to this self-reporting, VA has traditionally verified the recipients’ self-reported income using data matching.

Between 2011 and 2022, due to discrepancies in data matching, VA was unable to reliably verify the self-reported social security income of Veterans and survivors receiving pensions. When income verification resumed in July 2022, roughly 9,900 beneficiaries were determined to have higher income levels than self-reported. This resulted in VA pension overpayments which – in some cases – spanned many years.

As legally required, VA established debts for these Veterans and survivors – meaning that VA determined that the amount of the overpayments was due back to VA. There are also approximately 30,000 additional Veterans and survivors who may have pension debts that have not yet been established. Many of these Veterans and survivors are elderly, and all are low-income, so these debts represent a significant hardship.

Recognizing the hardship and distress that these pension debts may cause, VA has paused the collection of all established pension debts and the establishment of new pension debts while we determine the path forward. Because this is a particularly vulnerable population of Veterans and survivors, VA is pursuing all available options to provide as much pension debt relief as possible. We will be reaching out directly to affected Veterans and survivors to let them know that pension debt collection has been paused while we pursue options for relief – and we will keep them updated throughout every step of this process. Additionally, to prevent issues like this from happening in the future, VA will be conducting a review to understand why the data discrepancies occurred and why it took so long to address. 

We apologize to affected Veterans and their survivors for any distress that these pension debt notifications may have caused. For questions about debt management, we encourage these Veterans and survivors to visit our debt management website or call us at 800-827-0648.