Chief's perspective: servant leadership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Ray Lapham
  • 363rd Training Squadron

     As my time in the Air Force comes to a close, I have to reflect on those leaders who have made the biggest impact on my life.  Every single one of them seemed to exude the same qualities of one specific character trait: servant leadership.  These individuals were able to take their organizations to very high levels of productivity by one mantra, consider others greater than themselves and place the needs of their people ahead of their own.  What ended up happening was a reciprocal attitude of the organization to not let the supervisor down and to do whatever it took to make the team first, in every aspect of their lives.  These were the greatest organizations I have ever seen from a productivity and comradery standpoint.   So many times I hear, how do I get promoted and what duty title do I need?  I say the same thing every time; take care of your people, recognize good performance, hold those accountable for poor performance and you will rise to the top of every organization no matter what duty title you may have. 

     Robert Greenleaf summed up Servant Leadership best stating, “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first… 

     As I transition out of the greatest Air Force in the world, I have to ask you to embrace one more principle; in order to be first in your organization, you must be willing to be last.