MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Service before self. It’s a phrase we’ve all heard countless times. It seems simple enough at face value, but I will argue that this core value is deeper and more challenging than at first glance. It is also a critical trait for all leaders and supervisors throughout an organization. This is obviously just one person’s perspective, but hopefully, it provides a little inspiration for you to also push beyond just a cursory study of the nature of service.
From the first time that we all raised our right hand in the defense of this nation, we pledged our service. For the longest time, I thought it was that straightforward. At times we would be asked to put the mission before our own needs. Often we do just this. We miss births, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other milestones. Other times the sacrifices are much larger. However, this is only one form of service.
In my experience, the best leaders I have worked for have had many traits in common, but one that always stood out was their ability to serve their fellow Airmen. First and foremost, they placed the needs of the men and women in their charge before their own. This often translates into a leader who is willing to take risks in order to do what is right. While unit commanders are uniquely placed to be able to execute servant leadership, all leaders throughout an organization have the ability to serve their Airmen. Supervisors, shop chiefs, shift leaders, flight chiefs, flight commanders all have the ability to lift up their Airmen and enable them to reach their true potential. However, no one can place the needs of others before their own all of the time. This is the inherent challenge of service before self.
If you’ve been lucky enough (or possibly unlucky depending on your perspective) to sit through one of my commander’s calls, you’ve heard me discuss that you can’t give 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time. It’s unsustainable. Everyone needs to find time for themselves and for their families. There is no 100 percent correct solution to this problem. How and when you give your maximum effort will vary from person to person, and even from one phase of your life to the next. While it is critical to seek out advice from the people around you who set a good example; the only person who can truly understand this balance is you.
This same concept can be applied to servant leadership. There will be times when you are called upon to give more than usual. In the meantime maximize the time you have with your friends and family. Think of it as a little extra capital in the bank to help you get through the leaner times.
Patriotism, honor, sacrifice, tradition, opportunity. These are just a few of the reasons you started your journey in service to this great nation and the state of South Carolina. In my opinion, serving the men and women who stand alongside you through this journey can not only have the greatest impact but also be the most satisfying part of the job. I challenge you all to find ways in which you can serve your fellow Airmen and I guarantee you will never regret it.