Samurai means “to serve”

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Nathan Algren, a captain who was a hero in battles against the Native Americans goes to Japan.

By Mary Shinn, Lauren Saria, Branko Veselinovic, Borgia Miguel Samaba Bouesso

Nathan Algren’s journey to servant leadership demonstrates the importance of listening, dedication, respect, passion and introspection. Through his time with the samurai he learns what it means to serve others’ interests, which is a fundamental part of the samurai culture. Algren says in the movie:

“They are an intriguing people. From the moment they wake they devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue. I have never seem such discipline. I am surprised to learn that the word Samurai means, ‘to serve’, and that Katsumoto believes his rebellion to be in the service of the Emperor.”

Katsumoto inspires Algren, who was a lost man, by teaching him how to be introspective. Algren was caught in a cycle of guilt and shame that kept him from finding peace.

“I have been hired to suppress the rebellion of yet another tribal leader. Apparently, this is the only job for which I am suited. I am beset by the ironies of my life,” says Algren.

Although he was a good professional military man, he was not a good leader. He watches Katsumoto “take life in every breath,” and challenges him to find what Algren wants for himself. But Katsumoto is not unwilling to learn from enemies and those who have had different life experiences. Over a winter their conversation inspire each other to change and see the value in a different culture and leadership style.

Katsumoto inspires others because he is selfless in his service to the Emperor and willing to give up his life for the emperor, but not willing to supersede the emperor’s authority.

His selflessness is best exemplified when leaves his son behind to die so that he can lead his people.

Even Katsumoto’s enemies kneel when he gives up his life because he commands such great respect.

Even though by today’s standard’s the terrible defeat that Katsumoto suffered would have been seen as a failure of leadership it inspires the Emperor to change.

The Emperor accepts his leadership for the first time and shows his enemies to be selfish.

“Servant leaders focus on identifying and meeting the needs of others rather than trying to acquire power, wealth, and fame for themselves,” says Kent Keith, CEO of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership.

Katsumoto and Algren fight side-by-side.

Although Algren began the movie as a lost man and an exploitative leader, he learns the way of the samurai and the importance of serving others. He sees the value in fighting for his convictions through Katsumoto’s good example. This allows him to become a true servant leader, to the point where he offers to kill himself if the Emperor wishes.