From Our Early Files:
24 April 2013
“Good leaders must first become good servants.”
There are mountains of publications in our society dealing with leadership. In fact, if you type the word “Leadership” in Bing on the internet, you will get 302 million results for your viewing pleasure! However, as we look at our Nation today, it appears there is a leadership void. You can’t pick up the newspaper or watch your favorite 24-hour news station without hearing about another failure in leadership. Sadly, many leaders never learned or seem to have forgotten why they serve.
In this series of posts, I will share the leadership philosophy that I’ve used and tried to consistently emulate over the years. I’ve learned a considerable amount by observing people I view as great leaders as well as some not so great leaders. This style – servant leadership – centers on the word servant, largely because I fundamentally believe that leaders at all levels are entrusted with their position to be in service of others and should not focus on being served. In fact, I’m convinced the majority of leadership challenges we face today stem from those in positions of authority and responsibility tending to think more about themselves then those they are charged to lead—an unfortunate state of affairs that leaves the foundation of leadership shaken.
In his book The Servant James Hunter describes leadership in terms of an upside down pyramid. He calls it a new paradigm, with the CEO on the bottom of the inverted pyramid and the employees at the top. This is a great illustration that shows the role of leaders as they relate to followers.
In my capacity as a Wing Commander at both McConnell AFB, Kansas and Travis AFB, California, I would share a similar story with my new Airmen in the First Term Airmen Course (FTAC). I would begin our time together talking about Servant Leadership by asking a simple question–if a pyramid described our Wing Organization structure where would you be? They would quickly answer unanimously, “At the bottom.” I would then ask, and where would I be? They would answer just as quickly “At the top.” I would then say, where is the majority of the work on our base being done? They would respond, “At the bottom!”
If this is the case (and I certainly believe it is), does it make any sense for me as the leader to be the one being served if I am furthest away from the mission and the work being done every day? Absolutely not! As a Commander, I was given the rare privilege of leading our Nations treasure; the young men and women who selflessly wear the cloth of our Nation and are willing to give their very lives to ensure we continue to enjoy the freedoms we have today. As a leader, our responsibility is to shoulder the weight of the organization and serve those we lead.
My leadership philosophy is simple–it has seven main points. Each main point starts with a letter that happens to spell the word SERVANT. In upcoming posts I will share these seven points of my leadership style with you in greater detail. But I caution you up front; there’s nothing new here–just timeless, age old principles that in their simplicity will give you some food for thought as you reflect on what type of leader you are today and strive to be in the future.