Carl Benfield is an ex-army officer based in the Midlands who now runs a consultancy that specialises in working with SMEs. After graduating in civil engineering, he joined the army as an engineering officer where he stayed for 16 years, working on a variety of engineering assignments, including battlefield, construction, power and intelligence. After this he worked in the renewable energy sector, setting up his own energy company that he ran for nine years before becoming a consultant in 2018.
Carl’s army career started at Sandhurst with a one-year officer training course and a seven-month engineering officer course but throughout his army career there was ongoing training and development with considerable emphasis of leadership. The Sandhurst motto is ‘Serve to Lead’ and this is a strong concept throughout the Army.
Most of the time the military is about working together as a team and building the trust needed for difficult situations. It’s about getting people to do what they want to do rather than being told to do it, building goodwill through training and rehearsing the procedures needed for difficult situations so each team member knows what to do and relies on each other. The Servant Leadership model, where the main goal of the leader is to serve, works far better in situations like this rather than the traditional idea of leadership that primarily revolves around the leader.
As a servant leader, the focus is on the needs of others and giving them the support they need to develop and perform to their best. The leader looks after their team, ensuring they are equipped, trained and mentally capable of facing what’s coming up, essential if you are leading people into difficult or risky situations. Power is shared so the team can be involved in decision making where appropriate, but although the team comes first, it doesn’t mean that the leader simply does what the team wants them to do. The leader provides for the team and thinks about them first so the team has the self-confidence, calmness and understanding to see that it’s a position of strength not weakness to look after people.
Servant leadership is a way of behaving that you adopt over the longer term. It is not about the individual, how far the leader is going to go, how good they are and their own career progress, it’s about the team who, if developed properly, will naturally perform to their best and be able to do what their leader requires. This can lead to higher engagement, more trust, and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders and increased innovation.