Admirals Advice

Servant Leader

I remember reading high above the bronze doors of the Academy Chapel the Latin phrase “Non sibi sed patriae” which means ‘not for self, but country’.
Rear Admiral Thomas C. Lynch, USN (Retired)

As a young man attending the Naval Academy in the early 60’s, I remember reading high above the bronze doors of the Academy Chapel the Latin phrase “Non sibi sed patriae” which means ‘not for self, but country’. As midshipmen, we were preparing ourselves for a career of naval service. Service to the navy and marine corps and service to the nation. A noble endeavor. A servant leader.

I thought of those days at the Academy when some years later I assumed command of the USS Truett in the Atlantic fleet. From that moment on, I realized that the health and welfare of every sailor and the overall readiness of the ship became my responsibility. For the next three years, I worked to become the servant leader I aspired to be. During those 36 months, I never had a thought, word or deed without first thinking what effect each may have on the ship, my shipmates, and only then, on myself. Without realizing it, I was emulating the selfless leader, a true servant leader.

My challenge then became how to permeate this selflessness throughout the command. Easy to espouse, but very difficult to effect. Leaders must set the example and be the change they wish to see because they also must teach others to adopt the same mindset. This is difficult to accomplish because the ship, shipmate, self-hierarchy is contrary to our human DNA. We come into this world crying for a bottle and quickly learn to always take care of oneself first and foremost. Awareness of others comes later, as people mature and learn the meaning of self-sacrifice.

USS Truett was a sleek 440-ton ship of the line, but turning the culture to one of servant leadership within its crew took time and effort. Gradually the officers and senior petty officers appreciated the merit in looking for the good being done throughout the ship and recognizing performance (both good and bad), praising in public, admonishing in private, demonstrating to each, regardless of seniority of their importance to the ship and the navy. In effect, saying I respect and appreciate all that you do and I’m here to help you attain your goals. Gradually, sailors across the spectrum begin thinking about what they can do to contribute and feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves. They buy into the vision. As selfless members of the organization, they ask themselves what can I do today to make my ship (my company) become better, to make my shipmates (my colleagues) become better persons and finally, what’s in it for me???

The results were astounding. The USS Truett was recognized as the most improved ship within the 350 ship Atlantic Fleet, made every operation commitment and, most important to me, received the Fleet’s Golden Anchor Award for having the highest re-enlistment rate. I see this same transformation taking place at NewDay USA, a mortgage lender that specializes in VA guaranteed loans for military members and veterans. Each day, more and more of our team of 500 professionals are coming to work thinking about how they can make the company, their team and their teammates better.

As their priorities shift, what seems like self-sacrifice will turn to their advantage. Doors are opened, progress is made at all levels, promotions are attained and soon they epitomize the selfless leader and NewDay achieves its goal of being #1 in the veteran space. Because it’s true: You can’t keep a good mind or a selfless person down!

Rear Admiral Thomas C. Lynch (USN, Ret.) is Executive Chairman of the Board of Advisors at NewDay USA, a mortgage lender in Fulton, Md., that specializes in VA-guaranteed loans. As Chairman, the Admiral instills military values in every member of his team.

To learn more about NewDay USA and see the Admiral’s leadership in action, call us today. It is our mission to help you get the financial security you deserve.