It’s probably not a stretch to say you’re in the Air Force because you want to be a part of a cause that is bigger than you. At the same time, the journey can be long, and at times you might even wonder, “Does what I’m doing even matter? Is there anything about my life that can be truly great?”
In my faith tradition in the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus draws a distinction to his followers between “power” and “greatness.” He said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…” (Mark 10:43). How does that work? Put simply, the better you become at meeting the needs of others, the higher in demand you will become, and more will be entrusted to you.
Let’s take your supervisor as an example. A helpful question to ask would be, “What does he or she need from me?” At a minimum, they need you to show up on time and with a good attitude. They should never have to wonder where you are or if you’re going to be difficult to deal with when you show up. Closely related to that, the second thing they need from you is to simply to do what you say you will do, or at least what you agreed to do. Past behavior is the greatest indicator of future behavior, and if your supervisor doesn’t believe you when you say you’ll get it done, that’s only going to add a layer of stress on his/her life, in addition to all of their other responsibilities. Finally, he or she needs clear communication from you. In other words, no one likes surprises, so do all you can to keep those to a minimum. All of those behaviors lighten the load for your boss, and they will consider themselves very fortunate you are there, because you are giving them what they need. You’ve become a servant, and you are on the path to greatness.
In fact, here’s a tip for younger Airmen: no matter how high you go in leadership, you will never stop being a servant. In fact, you will likely find yourself becoming more of a servant. Why is that? Because not only are you asking, “What does my boss need from me?” but also, “What do those I lead need from me, in order to do what I’ve asked them to do?”
The greatest leaders are those who discipline themselves in such a way that they have the capacity to serve those both up and down the chain. They see themselves through the eyes of others and adjust their behavior accordingly. This goes for relationships outside the military as well. In fact, I’ll find myself asking, “What kind of dad does my 15-year-old daughter need me to be? What kind of husband does my wife need me to be?” These questions give me a road map for my priorities.
Thinking this way prevents us from confusing true service with aimless people-pleasing. I can’t be a great servant if I don’t take care of myself. So, I pay attention to my physical, mental, and spiritual health not merely for myself, but because it is what is best for others. I’d rather be in a condition to carry than to be carried. If I’m constantly tired or in a bad place mentally, I’m not going to have the ability to give to others what they need from me. So now “self-care” becomes something that isn’t just for me, but optimizes my ability to serve.
So, if you want to be on the path to greatness, get ready to serve! For information about Luke AFB Chaplain Corps programs & events, “like” us on Facebook @LukeAFBChapel. Feeling like you need to talk? Give us a call at 623-856-6211.