What does good leadership and service look like in the military?

What does it look like to demonstrate leadership as you rise through the military?

Bobby Carsey ‘12: True leaders demonstrate leadership by being humble, seeking feedback, and placing others before themselves. The JJI unique perspective on Christian leadership in the military enforces these characteristics. It is vital that military leaders lead with humility, seek and grow from constructive feedback, and put the greater good of the unit over their personal goals.

Chip Williamson ‘13: Servant leadership is arguably the most vital element of Christian officership.  Despite being frequently tossed about in both the civilian and military worlds as merely one leadership method among many, its basis and depth of meaning lies in Judeo-Christian thought.  Although the phrase seems oxymoronic, Christ's selfless example (Phil. 2) and our mandate to emulate him is the most obvious case of servant leadership.  As Jesus exhorted his disciples, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:25-26).

As the breadth of my responsibility in the military has grown from being responsible only for myself to making decisions about the careers and livelihood of over fifty Airmen to making operational decisions that could have life or death consequences, the weight of that call to place others before myself increases.  This often demands enormous amounts of time and thought, a daily struggle for me, but the rewards increase with the weight of responsibility.  All military leaders can think of colleagues who spend more time planning their career or starting projects that will make them look good while their units flounder with little purpose, direction, or effectiveness.  But those who are generous with their time and resources, open in their communication, and serve with integrity of character inevitably see the mission accomplished and their people successful.

Anne Chambers ‘13: Every leader has to make a conscious decision to dedicate their particular talents and abilities to the benefit of those around them.  For me, it was a process of continuously refining my interpersonal and communication skills to better grow and develop my Marines.  It also required applying new perspectives and approaches to tackle particularly challenging situations and personalities.


Have you had any particular experiences in your service where you learned something new or deeper about what it means to serve?

Bobby Carsey: While serving as the commanding officer of a patrol boat, I discovered a deeper meaning for what it means to serve. As a leader, I believe the deeper meaning is to improve the lives of those I have the opportunity to lead and those I serve under. One instance in particular stands out.  One of the crew was under a lot of stress at home as his wife was undergoing extensive medical treatment. Recognizing this stress, small acts such as letting him leave earlier to make an appointment or allowing him to miss a patrol, had a profound impact on his well-being, his marriage, and his work. I encountered examples like this throughout my Coast Guard experience. Great leaders concern themselves with improving the lives of those they lead.

Chip Williamson: At my first assignment as a new 2nd lieutenant, the colonel leading our directorate taught me through his daily example what selfless service, persistence, and effective leadership looks like.  Previously, he had served in extremely sensitive assignments abroad, and targeted harassment at those locations had lasting consequences on the health of his family. Despite his struggles at home, he was always beaming when he spoke about his wife and would consistently follow up with questions about your own family.  He never passed on the opportunity to shake your hand every morning and recall details from previous conversations, quite a feat in an office of over 120 people.  In meetings with the highest levels of military decision makers, he was honest and objective, and his word was highly regarded.  That trust placed in him was due to his demonstration of character over decades of service, and his unit, seeing that same character, would follow him wherever he led.  Although much of this may sound like obvious elements of good leadership, to combine it all into a daily routine is truly rare, and the effect it had on the directorate was phenomenal.  To this day, I consider his example when building my priorities, including investing in developing the character that made my first military leader so impactful.  

Anne Chambers: I have learned to take the good that you can, and to endure what you must with faith and hope in God’s provision.  I always believed that a military member was the harbinger of each American’s dreams, and that remains a true statement.  We must each strive to grow as much as possible in compassion, integrity, patience, resolve, and selflessness to let God work through us for the American dream and the establishment of a more honorable society.   

About these John Jay Institute alumni:

Chip Williamson graduated from Trinity University, San Antonio, TX in 2013 with a degree in Political Science and received his commission in the USAF at the University of Texas at San Antonio.  Currently, he serves as a Deputy Flight Commander and Mission Operations Commander at Ramstein AB, Germany where he lives with his wife and one-year-old daughter.

Anne Chambers is the Adjutant and Manpower officer for a battalion of 1,100 Marines and Sailors. This fall, she will finish her contract with the Marine Corps and pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Bobby Carsey is a current MBA student at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. He was formerly an officer in the Coast Guard for 5 years.