By Max Hrenda
The term “servant leader” might seem, at first glance, to be an oxymoron.
But, in Lt. Col. James Parrish’s mind, leading and serving are inescapably intertwined, particularly in U.S. military and law enforcement.
“I really don’t think the rest of the world brings that mindset of aggressively seeking justice, showing compassion, and walking humbly,” Parrish said. “Not every organization has that in their culture.”
For Parrish, who plans to retire in early 2014 after more than 31 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, serving and leading can be successfully combined by following and believing in a core set of “moral imperatives.”
“The moral imperatives are: being morally worthy, thoroughly responsible, highly confident, setting high standards, being an impeccable example, being that servant leader, and being morally and physically courageous,” Parrish said.
“When you’re a believer, and you understand how to serve, the ‘what’ comes easily. The ‘what’ is the tactics and the advanced systems that are used.”
The son of an Army man, Parrish went on to enlist himself in 1982, and began a career that would take him through the Army, the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, the Elizabethton Police Department, and, most recently, the Department of Defense, where he served as commander of the Criminal Investigation Task Force.