March 27, 2012

Leadership is action, not position

Master Sgt. Scott Harris

I recently read a quote in an article that I believe defines a true leader. The quote is from Donald H. McGannon and says, “Leadership is action, not position.”

This phrase epitomizes my leadership philosophy; specifically, I feel people are leaders by virtue of what they do, not the authority they are given or the duty title or position they hold.

There are three basic principles that good leaders understand, portray and achieve.

First, the mission is number one, but people come first. Second, standards are the same for all, but discipline is different for everyone. Third, balance is very difficult to achieve, but striving for it is required.

What I mean by “mission is number one, but people come first” is quite simple. Even though the mission is our number one priority, people make it happen. Therefore, it is a leader’s responsibility to put people first, to serve them, not the other way around. I am not suggesting that people will not have to make personal sacrifices to accomplish the mission. On the contrary, high work ethics, significant accomplishments and, at times, sacrifices are expected.

With that being said, leaders are to do absolutely everything possible within their power to make the quality of life of their personnel as comfortable as possible. That is only possible if they know their squadron members on a personal level. It is important to know people not only as Airmen but for the people they are and the things and people that affect their lives.

Second, meeting standards are a must. Regardless of personal beliefs, standards are standards; they are not difficult to maintain, and either they are met or they are not. When standards are not met, it is the duty of a leader to correct those members.

Although standards are the same for everyone, discipline is not. There are always variables at play such as, is there a pattern of misconduct, how has the member’s duty performance been, what options are available and how will they impact the member’s career, and what is the lowest level of discipline that will correct the behavior. Other members do not always know all the circumstances and variables at play, but need to know the discipline action will be fair and consistent.

Third, although balance is nearly impossible to achieve, striving for it is required. I think we all work better if we have spiritual, physical and emotional balance, feel good about the work we do every day, are recognized and feel like we are making a difference in the big scheme of things. Although we will not be able to strike balance in all things, we must always try. It is good for us, our families, our productivity and the Air Force.

Chapter 10 of the Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241, Professional Development Guide, discusses the art of leadership and the many qualities a good leader should possess. Are you doing the right thing at the right time the right way and for the right reason? If you can say yes, you are a leader. Be a leader, not just a title or position holder.

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