Servant Leadership

  • Published
  • By Col. Paul Kirmis
  • 35th Fighter Wing Vice Commander
As leaders, we sometimes take our position, power and rank for granted. Yes, we earned our stripes, our bars, oak leafs or eagles, but the dedication and trust of our followers--that does not come with rank or authority, it comes from a genuine concern for our people. It comes from practicing servant leadership.

During Gen. Brown’s visit last week, we highlighted some Airmen here who are leading by example, serving the people around them to the best of their ability. Two of these Airmen also happen to be some of our most junior members, and I want to share not only their perspectives on leadership but also how they put it into action in their day-to-day lives.

Airman 1st Class Anne Ardern is a 35th Fighter Wing command post controller, who in the last year alerted the wing to 6 missile attacks in less than a minute and piloted command and control for the annual Cope North exercise in Guam, linking 15 tankers to 22 F-16 Fighting Falcons. In her free time, Airman Ardern has starred in the lead role of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and led numerous hail and farewell events and fundraisers. In fact, she volunteered so often that she received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award; the minimum standard for this award is 4,000 hours of volunteering in a lifetime.

More than her accomplishments, though, is her attitude toward people. As Airman 1st Class Ardern said, to influence others you need to be understanding, knowledgeable, personable and an active listener so your followers can relate with you. As she leaves us in the next few weeks for Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, she leaves a legacy of care not only for her unit but for the entire base. We will miss her greatly!

On the other side of base, Airman 1st Class Daniel Lefthand with the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron responded to 185 emergencies last year, safeguarding 44 F-16s and over 11,500 people who live and work on Misawa Air Base. He also raised over $3,100 in support of a local orphanage and military organizations on base. To him, leadership is all about serving people unconditionally. As he put it, “A servant leader goes above and beyond enriching the lives of others, whether that’s on the job or off, enabling others’ capacity to serve.”

Airman 1st Class Lefthand’s attitude of leadership continues, even though he’s already been recognized for his efforts in the past year. Without being asked or tasked, he sought out the civilian in his shop who organizes the annual orphanage visit and is now coordinating the engagement himself.

Airman like Airman 1st Class Ardern and Airman 1st Class Lefthand are the definition of servant leaders. They’re leading from the bottom up, overcoming obstacles and showing us what it means to be Wingmen. They are focusing not only on their own personal growth but also on the growth and well-being of their people and their communities. That mindset is essential because taking care of our people is essential; they are the greatest force we have in accomplishing the mission. Without them, we fail.

My job, and the job of all supervisors on base, is to make sure we’re taking care of the people around us. My expectation falls nothing short of a climate of teamwork and pride and respect for all of our members regardless of their rank or position because no matter if you’re a colonel or an Airman 1st Class, we’re all in this together.