Commentary

January 11, 2013

Be the leader you deserve

We all know that the New Year brings resolutions that typically revolve around better health and fitness, paying off debt or competing educational goals.

What about making a resolution to be a better leader?

Vince Lombardi said, “Leadership rests not only upon ability, not only upon capacity – having the capacity to lead is not enough. The leader must be willing to use it. His leadership is then based on truth and character. There must be truth in the purpose and will power in the character.”

Leadership is a key skill in almost any organization, but it is a must in the military. Key aspects of leadership include setting a good example, followed closely by setting and then enforcing standards. We all know these tenets from professional military education and mentorship that we receive from those we work with daily. There are two additional aspects of leadership that we should look at more closely if we want to be truly successful leaders.

The first is leading by being the leader you wish you had. We all know of good and bad examples of leadership. We have all worked for bad leaders and said to ourselves, “If I ever get a chance to lead, I’ll never do what he/she just did.”

We have also worked for outstanding leaders who we would attempt to emulate given the chance to lead. In my experience the best leaders were the ones who led as the leaders they wished they had. I know that sentence is a mouthful, but think about it. Would anyone want to be a bad leader for themselves? It is a leadership application of “do unto others as you would do unto yourself.” This doesn’t mean that you should cancel all standards and let people do whatever they want. It means that you should hold yourself to the same standard that you hold all of your folks to and treat them the way you would like a leader to treat you.

The second is followership. You’re asking yourself, “What does followership have to do with leadership?” The answer is quite simple. The only individual in our military chain of command who does not work for a superior is the President of the United States. The rest of us are followers in some way. Those who you lead pay attention to how you follow your leaders. They will emulate your followership, therefore in order to be a good leader you must also be a good follower. In order to be a good follower I recommend you take the advice of the previous paragraph and be the follower you wish you had. Once again we have all had good followers and bad followers. As leaders we can learn from our followers if we just pay attention. If you are as good a follower as you wish you had, then your leadership will be happy as long as you maintain those standards we talked about earlier.

The ultimate goal of all leaders should be to grow their replacements. Our purpose should be to train our followers to be at least as good a leader, preferably a better leader, than we are now. By setting good examples of being the leader/follower we wish we had we can grow the next generation of Air Force leaders to improve upon our successes and continue the process of increasingly superior leadership. It is up to us to do it right.

 




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