Standing to attention eyes focused straight ahead, shoulders back, standing up straight. We were formed up on parade at Dettingen Barracks. It was a crisp winter day in December 1973. My brasses on my belt and webbing are shining, my highly polished boots could have been used as a mirror to shave that morning, and the creases in my trousers and sleeves of my jacket were so sharp they could be have been the razor. This was the Junior Leaders Battalion passing out parade. The oldest person on parade, including the drill sergeants, are 17 years old and there are 300 young men carrying out all the drill movements you would normally see at a Queen’s Birthday Parade. We had practiced and performed this event for months on end and now we were perfect.

After joining the Army as a boy soldier of 16 years old, in September 1972, the first lesson I had drilled into me was that not everything was about me (I thought it was until I joined up). My only motivation and thoughts that morning was performing at my very best, not just for me but for my platoon, my company and for those who were passing out that day. (it would be my turn to ‘pass out’ 4 months later). I didn’t want to let anyone down; I had a duty and a responsibility to those to my left and to my right.

I was still formulating my leadership philosophy and how I wanted to lead and was yet to read about  and hear the term ‘Servant Leadership, a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve others. As I reflect now, thanks to the intense training I received over 18 months, I was already halfway there. To serve others was going to be the cornerstone of my leadership. It was going to be about what I could do for those I was responsible and accountable for rather than what they could do for me.

I was fortunate to be able to crystallise this philosophy over several years during my first career thanks to having some amazing role models.  Leaders I could emulate. I had seen proof that this style of leadership would work in the way people responded to, with their loyalty, commitment, achievement and then results.

So, what did this style of leadership include?

  • When you have power, you share it
  • You put the needs of the employees first – your needs come second.
  • You eat last – you sleep last.
  • As a leader you help people develop and perform as highly as possible

“If your actions inspire people to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

My 5 tips on putting others before you:

  1. When someone asks for guidance be sincere and always put their best interests first
  2. You do not have an agenda
  3. You are always consistent – it is never the case that one day you can put others first and then the next day it is all about you. Otherwise those around you don’t know which version they are going to get from you
  4. Words are fine but only your actions matter. So be ready to be tested when it comes to putting others before yourself.
  5. Ask yourself on each occasion who I am doing this for? Be honest with yourself.

Immediately after my passing out parade in April 1974 we had this picture taken before we all went set out on our (successful) leadership careers. (I am 4th from the right second row).

Courtesy of in memory of  Major Stephen J. Foster who passed away on 20 July 2020 and who is featured in this picture. RIP


Towards the very end of my Army career (in 1995) I was approached by my boss who asked me if I would consider a ‘late entry (LE) commission to be an officer.  This was incredibly flattering and something I had not expected.  I politely declined as it would have meant significant disruption to our family life especially for my youngest daughter Bettina who copes with autism and a learning disability.  As much as I loved my army career, there were others more important than me to consider first.

By Steve Raw