Servant leader is a phrase that was first used by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 in an essay he wrote titled “The Servant as Leader.”
In this essay, he described the concept as, “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.”
The want to serve is deeply entrenched in all of us as Air Force members. We all raised our right hands and took our respective oaths to protect, defend and serve our country.
To become a servant leader, you must accept that you want to serve more than just your country, but also those you supervise and direct on a daily basis. A question one may ask is, what are the characteristics of a servant leader?
In his paper titled, “On Character and Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders,” Larry C. Spears identified ten characteristics: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building the community.
In consideration of the aforementioned characteristics of servant leadership, we as Air Force members should evaluate ourselves and ask some hard questions such as, “Do I exhibit these characteristics? Do I serve those I am responsible for to the best of my ability? Do I display these characteristics every single day? Do the people I serve know I am here to better them and not my own career?”
In accordance with Air Force Instruction 36-2618, “The Enlisted Force Structure,” the primary purpose of a senior NCO is mission accomplishment. I believe that becoming better servant leaders will enhance our mission effectiveness. By taking care of the people we also take care of the mission.
However, the concept of servant leadership is not easy for everyone to adopt. If we take a look at those ten characteristics and make a conscience effort to incorporate some of them in our leadership, we as leaders will only see positive rewards. To become a servant leader you must accept that you are at the forefront of a cultural shift from the norm, and as time passes, those who you serve will learn to serve others.