Dec. 20‚ 2004 Commencement Speech

Speaker: James "Micky" BlackwellExecutive Vice President‚ Lockheed Martin Corp.‚ retired

Georgia (Dec 20, 2004) — President Siegel‚ members of the faculty‚ distinguished guests and honored graduates.

It is an honor to address the graduation class of 2004.

Congratulations to the graduates for having completed your degree. Also‚ congratulations to your family and friends that have supported you.

As Dr. Siegel mentioned‚ my name is Micky Blackwell. I retired recently as dxecutive vice president of Lockheed Martin Corp.‚ where I led their worldwide aircraft business.

I have made my history. Now‚ it is the time for you to make your history. You are the leaders of today and tomorrow.

The question is: What kind of history will you make? What kind of leadership will you give our world?

Your first reaction to the word “leader” may be‚ “I am not a leader.” I submit that everyone is a leader.

It may be as CEO of a corporation‚ head of a small working group‚ teacher in Sunday school‚ coach of a sports team or father or mother to your children.

The question is not will you lead‚ but how will you lead.

In a book titled “The Servant Leader‚” Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges describe two types of leaders—“self−serving leaders” and “servant leaders.”

Which will you be?

Self−serving leaders are people who want to be a leader to get promoted‚ a pay raise‚ power or recognition.

For self−serving leaders‚ leadership is all about what’s−in−it−for− me? Pat Riley in his book “The Winner Within” calls this the “Disease of Me.”

Sadly‚ a recent UCLA nationwide survey indicates that the majority of college students choose as their life goal to be wealthy‚ as opposed to developing a meaningful philosophy of life. By the way‚ thirty years ago most college students wanted just the opposite.

Being a self−serving leader may lead to financial wealth‚ but it will not give you the greatest satisfaction and happiness from your work or play.

From observing many highly successful people‚ financial success is not a satisfactory end goal. Financial success must come as the result of other kinds of success.

Remember Walt Disney? His goal was to keep people smiling. In carrying out this goal‚ he became very wealthy.

Your personal goal may be to develop new products for consumers‚ win a contract‚ nurse the sick‚ give legal advice or teach children. They all involve people.

Your fulfillment and satisfaction with your life will come as you meet people’s needs.

As you consider what type of person you want to be‚ and what kind of leadership style you will use at work‚ home and play‚ I would like you to consider the idea of becoming a “servant leader.”

I first heard of “servant leaders” in high school from a minister who spoke during chapel. He based his remarks on the work of Robert Greenleaf of AT&T.

“Servant leadership” as a leadership model has guided me throughout my entire working career‚ and I believe in no small way it has contributed to my continued success and happiness.

The Bible says‚ “Whoever will be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25).

A servant leader is one that is totally devoted to serving others while at the same time being totally committed to achieving their personal goals.

To become a servant leader starts in the heart. It begins with motivation.

Is the motivation for what you’re doing for self−interest or is it for the benefit of those you are leading?

Motivation that comes from the heart will make a difference in our world.

I would like to illustrate this with a story told by the scientist and poet Loren Eiseley.

Before starting to work one morning‚ he decided to walk along the beach. As he was walking along the shore‚ he looked off in the distance and saw what he thought was a young man dancing.

As he got closer‚ he found the man wasn’t dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the beach‚ picking up starfish‚ and then flinging them back into the surf.

Eiseley saw hundreds of starfish stranded on the beach‚ where the surf had receded‚ so he asked the young man what he was doing. He said “I am throwing the starfish back into the surf. If I don’t throw them back‚ they will all die.”

Eiseley looked at the young man and said‚ “Don’t you know there are hundreds of starfish‚ and that you can’t possibly throw them all back?”

And the young man‚ seemingly not hearing what Eiseley said‚ reached down‚ picked up a starfish‚ threw it back into the surf‚ and said‚ “I made a difference to that one.”

As a servant leader‚ you will make a difference by enabling others to do their jobs. It could be:

* Passing the ball so someone else can score
* Giving up something you wanted in order to meet your children’s needs
* Cutting through red tape to enable an employee to do his or her job

If you start serving others in just small ways‚ you will make a difference!

Becoming a “servant leader” also involves the head‚ where your vision of the future‚ your belief system and your core values are stored.

Create a vision for yourself‚ and literally see yourself in your mind’s eye where you want to be in the future.

Have you settled on a personal vision and personal goals? What kind of person do you want to be? Have you settled on your core values?

If you have not given time to answering these questions‚ I would like to challenge you to do so.

You are starting an exciting journey‚ and you need to know where you are going.

Remember the lesson of Alice and the Cheshire cat—if you don’t know where you are going‚ any road will get you there.

Servant leaders have a clear and compelling vision that excites passion in the leader and commitment in those who follow the leader.

A mark of a servant leader is that he or she is always willing to point the direction‚ because they already have a vision of the future in their mind.

A way to look at core values is to ask‚ “How do I want people to behave when they are working with me on my vision of the future?”

Core values are important‚ because they drive all of our behavior. They are what we stand for.

Personal core values may include such things as:

* Spiritual beliefs
* Excellence in all you do
* Ethical conduct
* Honesty and integrity
* Loyalty
* Fairness in all dealings
* Courage
* Sense of humor

True success as a servant leader comes from the leader living every day his or her core values in front of the whole world.

Leaders elicit trust when we have confidence in their core values‚ their competence and their passion to achieve their vision.

Your journey to become a servant leader will end with your hands. You must put servant leadership into practice.

The traditional view of management is that the people who report to us are supposed to serve us. Now as a servant leader‚ you will serve and meet the needs of the people for whom you are responsible.

The servant leader actively removes any obstacles in the path of those working with him or her. In this way‚ servant leaders unleash the strengths‚ talents and passions of those they serve.

Being a servant leader has many rewards.

As a servant leader your personal rewards will be satisfaction and happiness from your work‚ play and your family.

There are also great rewards to organizations‚ teams and family units that are led by servant leaders. They achieve higher levels of performance than those led by self−serving leaders.

People exceed performance expectations when those who lead care for them‚ and when they are accepted for who they are‚ even though they may not be the best performers.

This is best illustrated by example. In 1989‚ I was asked to lead the Lockheed F−22 stealth fighter program. At the time‚ we were losing badly in the competition with Northrop Grumman.

The previous leaders of the program were the kind that shouted‚ cursed and fired employees. Our program staff was a dispirited patchwork crew made up of many who were not the company’s best performers.

I introduced servant leadership. To make a long story short‚ the program turned around‚ and Lockheed blew by Northrop Grumman to win the F−22 program going away. Plus‚ the Air Force said the work product of this patchwork group of people was the finest they had ever seen.

The power of the people working on the F−22 program was unleashed‚ and they stood taller because their leaders served them and cared about them.

There are also rewards for those that work on a team led by a servant leader.

This is wonderfully illustrated by a recent movie called “Miracle‚” which shows the impact that caring can have on team performance.

This movie is about a group of talented “self−serving” hockey players coached by Herb Brooks who are in training for the 1980 Olympics.

Over time‚ they became a good team‚ but they could not achieve their potential‚ no matter how hard they tried. It was not until Coach Brooks led them to the point that they began to care for each other and pursue a common vision‚ that they achieved their highest potential and beat the Russians to win the gold.

Family‚ friends and faculty‚ your job to care and support these graduates must continue if they are to achieve their highest potential.

Graduates‚ if you know that there are people that care for you‚ encourage you‚ love you and are supporting you‚ no amount of discouragement will keep you from achieving your personal vision.

This idea is captured by a poem entitled “The Race” (anonymous).

Whenever I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face‚ my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
A children’s race‚ young boys‚ young men; how I remember well‚ excitement sure‚ but also fear‚ it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope‚ each thought to win that race or tie for first‚ or if not that‚ at least take second place.
Their parents watched from off the side‚ each cheering for their son‚ and each boy hoped to show his folks that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they flew‚ like chariots of fire‚ to win‚ to be the hero there‚ was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular‚ whose dad was in the crowd‚ was running in the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip‚ the little boy who thought he’d win‚ lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself‚ his arms flew everyplace‚ and midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
As he fell‚ his hope fell too; he couldn’t win it now.
Humiliated‚ he just wished to disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face‚ which to the boy so clearly said‚ “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose‚ no damage done‚ behind a bit that’s all‚ and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself‚ to catch up and to win‚
his mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now‚ I shouldn’t try to race.”

But through the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face with a steady look that said again‚ “Get up and win that race!” So he jumped up to try again‚ ten yards behind the last.
“If I’m to gain those yards‚” he thought‚ “I’ve got to run real fast!” Exceeding everything he had‚ he regained eight‚ then ten… but trying hard to catch the lead‚ he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently. A tear dropped from his eye.
“There’s no sense running anymore! Three strikes I’m out! Why try? I’ve lost‚ so what’s the use?” he thought. “I’ll live with my disgrace.”

But then he thought about his dad‚ who soon he’d have to face. “Get up‚” an echo sounded low‚ “you haven’t lost at all‚ for all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall. Get up!” the echo urged him on‚ “Get up and take your place!
You were not meant for failure here! Get up and win that race!” So‚ up he rose to run once more‚ refusing to forfeit‚ and he resolved that win or lose‚ at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now‚ the most he’d ever been‚
still he gave it all he had and ran like he could win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling‚ three times he rose again.

Too far behind to hope to win‚ he still ran to the end. They cheered another boy who crossed the line and won first place‚ head high and proud and happy −− no falling‚ no disgrace.
But‚ when the fallen youngster crossed the line‚ in last place‚ the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last with head bowed low‚ unproud‚ you would have thought he’d won the race‚ to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said‚ “I didn’t do so well.”

“To me‚ you won‚” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and bleak and difficult to face‚ the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.

For all of life is like that race‚ with ups and downs and all.

And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall. And when depression and despair shout loudly in my face‚ another voice within me says‚ “Get up and win that race!”

As you receive your degree today‚ like Alice and the Cheshire cat‚ you have come to a fork in the road. It is up to you to choose how you will live the rest of your life‚ and what kind of history you will make.

Will you choose to live your life as a “self−serving” leader? Or‚ will you choose to be a “servant” leader‚ with strong core values totally devoted to serving others while pursuing your personal vision of the future?

Let me once again congratulate you on the great achievement that you celebrate today.

Best wishes in your pursuit of happiness.


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit