Will the real servant leaders please stand up?
By Master Sgt. Andriea Cook, 67th Special Operations Squadron First Sergeant
/ Published June 29, 2015
RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Every organization requires good leadership in order to thrive and be successful. Many military members express their reason of joining the military as a way to serve their country. But how many people really mean that?
Service Before Self
In order to serve, you must first take on the role of being a servant. That means putting the needs of your team first. It's important for you to acknowledge other people's perspective and supply them with the tools they need to be successful in order to meet their personal and professional goals.
Servant leadership enhances the personal growth of other great leaders as well as improves the quality of the organization. As a servant leader you serve your followers by focusing on the personal development and making their well-being a priority. You don't lose leadership qualities when becoming a servant leader.
Servant leaders give before they receive. If you take care of your Airmen, they will take care of the mission. You also help those who are doing poorly to do better and help those who are doing well to do even better. And, you have to focus on the needs of your team, not their feelings. It's imperative that you get to know your Airmen; you can't reach them if you don't know where they are.
Develop leadership skills
In order to be an effective leader, you must develop leadership skills. At the core of leadership you will always find influence. You can measure your effectiveness by how much you have altered what you have been given. If you aren't being effective and influential, you're taking up space. You can't change what you don't care about.
Ask yourself these questions to determine how effective you are as a leader:
What are you producing as a leader?
What difference are you making in the lives and careers of your Airmen?
When you are a reckless leader, everybody else has to deal with the results of you not caring. Leadership is an action and not a position. Through my Air Force journey, I have seen so called "leaders" who were more focused on the position they held and what they could gain from the system. They were more worried about being relevant and being promoted versus focusing on the people they were leading.
Make it about the Airmen
One of the most fundamental lessons learned in leadership is it's not about you. Your Airmen are not concerned about how strong of a leader you are inwardly, they want to know and see where your leadership can take them.
Servant leadership is a lot like money; it only gains value when it is invested. When your Airmen sense your leadership decisions are made with your" priorities, they will not trust you to lead. Once you have lost their trust, it's almost impossible to motivate and inspire them. This will limit the value of your leadership investment. While it's true that leadership may afford you a great platform to excel, it's important to recognize the people you lead built the platform and have entrusted its care and well-being up to you. Forget that and failure is certain.
A seed will reproduce after its own kind. In order to produce good leaders, we must plant the seeds of good leadership. Be committed to the growth of people. Give them the skills they need to be effective at their job. Your Airmen will never reach their full potential if they are misplaced and misguided. You don't change the mindset of your Airmen by being right, you do it by showing that you care. Empower your people to lead. Your Airmen understand that promises made are meaningless, promises broken are costly and promises kept are invaluable. Work with who your leaders are not, instead of whom you want them to be. We teach what we know but we reproduce what we are. If you want to succeed as a leader, take care of your people!
One of my mentors would always say, "Leaders serve an organization rather than control it." Leaders I challenge you to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Remember, you can't walk on water if you don't get out of the boat. When you get out of the boat, don't allow the surrounding circumstances to cause you to lose focus. An unfocused leader has a narrow vision of what he or she should be doing in life. Their ideas will eventually drown with them. Change the negative culture by embracing the change and be a servant leader.
Your talent is never enough. Your focus directs your talent, your perseverance sustains your talent and teamwork multiplies your talent. People may forget how fast you did your last job, but they will always remember how well you did it. My favorite author and leadership mentor John Maxwell says, "If you know how to do something, you will always have a job, but if you know why they are doing it, they will always work for you." So, I ask our Air Force leaders, "Will the real servant leaders please stand up?"