Servant Leadership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Edward Ramirez
  • 512th Airlift Wing command chief

What makes a good leader? Is it something we are born with, something we learn, or something that just comes naturally?

As I moved up through the enlisted ranks, I had the opportunity to read many articles and books about leadership. John Maxwell describes a good leader to be one that “influences” or someone that can “influence” others. The late General Colin Powell described a good leader as someone who takes “ownership,” whether good or bad, of their decisions.

I have often heard, and said many times before, that a good leader is someone who leads by example, even when no one is watching. It’s amazing how many different philosophies exist out there, as to what makes a good leader. However, no matter what source you use to define what makes a good leader, I have found the most common theme among them all is servitude.

A servant leader combines all the characteristics listed above with caring for others. In our military, serving others is caring and serving our Airmen, no matter what rank they hold. Servant leaders are leading to make their Airmen better and to provide a better place for them. Their success is no longer about them. It’s about the Airmen.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen how our priorities in the Air Force have changed. Our top priority was once solely about the mission, but now our priorities include caring for and developing Airmen; and, it makes sense. Our Airmen are the ones who make the mission move. They’re the ones who ultimately sacrifice their time and energy to ensure mission success -  failure is not an option.

In order for our Airmen to be successful, we as servant leaders need to provide them the means to be successful. Early in my career, I learned and witnessed firsthand, if our Airmen failed, so did I as their leader. It was a domino effect, whenever I failed as a leader, my superior also failed, and the task failed. It’s not a pleasant feeling when we are on the losing end.

After having these experiences throughout my military career, I vowed to continue to help and serve my Airmen to ensure their success. After all, we are all pieces of a bigger puzzle serving the mission. If a piece of the puzzle is missing, the puzzle is incomplete. As pieces of the bigger puzzle, if one of our Airmen is sick, injured, not able to work or unhappy at work, then the puzzle is not complete. If the puzzle is incomplete, then the mission will ultimately fail.

Let us all work to embrace servant leadership for the betterment of our Airmen and the success of our mission.