Inspire: Chief Warrant Officer Robert Holden

Each month the Office of Leadership will be posting a blog post on what inspires people to be great leaders. Rear Adm. William Kelly, assistant commandant for Coast Guard Human Resources, and Mr. Curtis Odom, director of Civilian Human Resources, Diversity and Leadership, kicked off the “Inspire” series in March with a video asking for you to keep the leadership dialogue going and to share what inspires you to be a leader. The 2017 Inspirational Leadership Awards winners will be highlighted in this series, and they will share what has inspired them to be great leaders.

Chief Petty Officer Robert Holden’s family members place chief warrant officer shoulder boards on him during his promotion ceremony.


Capt. Michael Campbell, commanding officer of the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, holds the Master Chief Angela M. McShan (Active Duty) Inspirational Leadership Award before presenting it to Chief Warrant Officer Robert Holden.

Chief Warrant Officer Robert Holden was selected as the 2017 Master Chief Angela M. McShan (Active Duty) Inspirational Leadership Award winner for his outstanding leadership while assigned as a chief petty officer at Air Station Detroit. Under Holden’s leadership, he maintained an extremely busy unit through 243 search and rescue cases, supported tier one mission requests for presidential security, helped with two natural disasters outside the unit’s area of responsibility, and performed proficiency deployments enabling updates during the winter hard water season, all while maintaining a perfect B0 dispatch rate (readiness measurement). Holden mentored both junior and senior personnel to their highest potential by devoting himself to each individual’s plea. He supervised 70 volunteers from the surrounding Coast Guard units and the local community to complete a renovation of a Coast Guard member’s home after a horrific assault that left the member permanently disabled.  He championed the “Shop with a Hero” event, partnering with a local department store to provide gift cards to underserved children in the community. Holden uplifted his community by working with both Air Station Detroit personnel and local fire department and EMS personnel to help the children during their shopping spree.

Holden shares how he incorporates servant leadership into his life and work and how servant leadership has made him an inspirational leader:

“The philosophy of servant leadership is a model I have always tried to incorporate in my life and work. This ideology was summed up well when leadership consultant and pastor John C. Maxwell said, ‘True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not to enrich the leader.’ In other words, leaders come to work every day willing to make great sacrifices for others, and they strive to make everyone who works with them their natural best. To be honest, I never appreciated the theory of servant leadership until I was advanced to chief petty officer. I found myself thrust into a position where others truly depended on me and my decisions. It was at this point that I reflected on those leaders with whom I worked with and analyzed what traits made them successful. I dissected every aspect of how they related to those around them and how they genuinely inspired others to serve.

Chief Warrant Officer Robert Holden, second from right, stands with his co-workers after receiving the call that he won the Master Chief Angela M. McShan (Active Duty) Inspirational Leadership Award.

What I determined was that every effective leader who influenced my career had two main attributes that made him or her valuable: character and commitment. They empowered others to succeed through their actions; they faced obstacles and oppositions with grace and conviction, all the while putting their people first. I am fortunate enough to have many examples of servant leaders throughout my career, from non-rated members to senior officers. As these leaders conducted their missions, they shared their wisdom, showed empathy, and exhibited the Coast Guard’s core values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. In return, they earned my trust and respect, and they became symbols of leadership to me.

I have concluded that leadership is fostered from who we are on the inside; it does not come with rank. Those with authority can tell people what to do, but a true leader shows them what to do, how to do it, and how to be successful doing it. During the course of my career, I have served with many inspirational leaders and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be considered one. It is a great honor to be recognized for the Master Chief Angela M. McShan Inspirational Leadership Award, and I owe it to those with whom I have served who instilled the foundational qualities of servant leadership: character and commitment. Thank you!”


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