Good leaders practice servant leadership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Tyrone Davis
  • 59th Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Squadron
Servant leadership is a concept that may be a little different from the normal discussions concerning leadership.

Though many of us practice this concept every day, we haven't thought about it as being in relationship to a servant.

The phrase, "I joined the military to serve my country," has been used by many people. But how much thought has really been put into the concept to serve or become a servant? To serve, you must take on the role of a servant.

You might have a visual picture of what a leader should be, and it probably has nothing to do with being a servant. A servant and a leader, however, should share many characteristics.

Focus on the word servant. Think about some of the tasks a servant would perform, his or her attitude and how he or she would act and dress. Most of us would think of someone who is courteous, clean cut and dressed very neatly. You would think of someone who demonstrates the characteristics of humility through willingness to provide for your needs.

A servant will often sacrifice his own needs to make sure yours are met. The two key words are humility and sacrifice, or selflessness.

A servant will always address you as sir, ma'am, mister, miss or missus. It is a sign of respect for the person with whom the servant is interacting.

A servant also demonstrates kindness by taking care of a person's needs when the need is identified, often before it is anticipated, without expecting to be repaid. The key words are respect and kindness.

A servant shows patience and commitment by ensuring needs are met when you need them and even when you don't, whether you're in a good or bad mood. The ultimate goal is to make sure that your needs are met regardless of the circumstances. The key words are patience and commitment.

Servants display honesty in their dealings, always providing the right information because if they weren't honest, they couldn't provide for your needs. The key word is honesty.

Now let's think about some of the characteristics of a leader. Do leaders provide for the needs of their people? Are leaders honest, caring, committed, selfless and kind? Do they hold their people accountable, whether their people want them to or not?

The role of a leader is to lead their people by getting them to do a job or task. There are two ways they can do this: by power or by influence. Both methods are effective when used appropriately, but when the leader overuses his power, he will eventually lose his position as a leader.

To influence people, you have to have some type of authority. Authority is a power to influence or command thought, opinion or behavior. We build authority any time we serve and sacrifice for others. When a leader routinely meets with his or her people, learns about them, identifies and understands their needs, provides for their needs and gains their trust, they establish relationships and build authority.

The last key word is love -- not the love that we relate to feelings, but the love that is often spoken of in Biblical terms, called agape love. Agape means charity or service.

Those of you who have been married for a little while know that love means being patient, kind, humble, respectful, selfless, honest and committed. When you do all of the things a servant does you are demonstrating agape love. You are meeting the needs of your people unconditionally regardless of how you feel or how those you lead feel.

Feelings have nothing to do with what a leader does, and true leaders don't let their feelings stop them from providing for the needs of the people they lead.

Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. were known as great leaders. They had a servant mentality, and their willingness to serve and sacrifice gave them authority. With that authority, they influenced people.

In the Air Force, leadership is defined as the art or skill to influence people to accomplish the mission. To influence people, you must have authority. To gain authority, you must establish relationships. To establish relationships, you must serve and sacrifice for your people. When you serve and sacrifice for your people, you are demonstrating servant leadership.

At the end of the day, did you serve anyone? Did you take care of your people? Did you build any relationships? Did you hold people accountable for their actions? Were you honest, kind, respectful, committed and selfless in your actions?

Do this not to pat yourself on the back but to keep yourself in check. To lead, you must serve, and when you serve, you are following the concept of servant leadership.