Every once in awhile I'll get nostalgic and start to watch old movies or TV shows which have had massive influences on me as a person. I started watching Band of Brothers. Band of Brothers takes place during World War 2 and is the story of Easy Company, a parachute infantry regiment. I've always loved this show because it touches on leadership and the relationship of members within a team.
As I was watching the first few episodes, a few things stood out to me. I loved a particular scene at the end of the first episode. All the men are prepping to board the plane that would take them to storm the beaches of Normandy. As the leader, Lieutenant Winters, prepares the man by saying, "Second Platoon, listen up. Good luck. God bless you. I'll see you in the assembly area." He then proceeds to pulls each of his men up to their feet as they board the plane. Once Lieutenant Winters pulled every man, he then boards the plane last. It may seem like such a small thing, but here are the things that stood out to me.
Act of simplicity
I love the simplicity of his words of encouragement were. The men knew that they were going into a situation where there were going to be many casualties. In simple terms, he acknowledges by wishing them good luck. He also acknowledges their faith by saying God bless you and gives them all hope by saying, "I'll see you in the assembly area."
Act of servanthood
It was fascinating that he pulled each of his men up to their feet. Each man was also carrying a minimum of 80 additional pounds of weight on them. There were other ways that this could have happened - he could have just grabbed the first man and let every man then grab the person behind him. Or he could have just pulled his senior non-commissioned officers and had them pull the rest of the men. You can see that he looks at each of his men in the eye and nods at them. He also grabs them by the hand, and this small gesture implies a certain level of bonding. I thought this was an incredible act of servant leadership.
Act of sacrifice
Once all of the men boarded, Lieutenant Winters boards the plane last. This act would also imply that he would also be the first to jump out of the aircraft. In most combat situations, it would be infrequent that you would let your commanding officer be the first to enter into the combat theatre. There would be many risks and unknowns and losing your commanding officer would have disastrous implications. Yet, on this particular occasion, Lieutenant Winters positions himself to be the first person to jump into the most dangerous position of his life literally.
In a more modern context, one of the acts of leadership I appreciated is how Satya Nadella chooses the word "colleagues" to describes the people who reported to him. He could have called them "employees," and no one would have thought less of it. The choice of the word "colleagues" implies peerage even though he is the CEO and the de facto leader of the organization.
I genuinely believe that the act of leadership happens in the smallest of actions.