Leadership sometimes comes to those who really didn’t expect it and for the most part probably didn’t ask for it. But, when the opportunity arises, take it and run with it. In my opinion, there is no better way in the military to do good for individuals, as well as the Air Force, than by helping each and every one of your Airmen to achieve their potential and goals.
I have had the opportunity to work with lots of good leaders in my 19 years of service, and one characteristic stands out the most. The best leaders seem to take care of their people first. They know that when you take care of them to the best of your ability, they will take care of the mission to the best of their abilities.
For example, I credit a former squadron commander with helping me achieve one of my goals. After coming into the military, I was like many medical/dental officers who joined thinking they would serve their country a few years and separate to start a private practice. I had some aspirations to seek specialty training in oral surgery, but after finding out the taxing nature of the residency on my family, I chose not to apply and wanted to separate.
Within a month of my separation date my squadron commander mentored me (exit interview) on my future, and offered up some suggestions that I had frankly never considered. We talked about my professional goals, and he asked me to look into specialty training with the Air Force before I separated. I took his advice and interviewed with the orthodontic residency consultant and was very pleased with everything that the Air Force could offer me and my family. After convincing my wife that this was what I wanted to do, I pulled my separation paperwork and applied for orthodontic residency consultant. My wife understood that there were no guarantees of acceptance and that I could always resubmit my separation paperwork.
Fourteen years later, my family and I are extremely glad that we remained with the Air Force, and my professional goal came to fruition.
Now, I’m in a position to help others achieve their goals. I reminisce today on the words my former squadron commander used to help guide me, and I want to do all that I can for my Airmen. In fact, I’m proud to say that with a little mentoring/sponsoring, one of Luke’s own general dentists has achieved one of his goals and has been selected into the highly competitive specialty of oral-maxillofacial surgery for 2014.
It is a pleasure to be able to help our Airmen achieve their goals in life. Today, my initial interview with my Airmen always includes what their goals are and discussing how I expect them to strive to get to that next step. Ultimately, it is their career, and they have to put some effort into attaining them whether getting promoted, finishing school or whatever they may be. The Air Force has many opportunities, and with the right attitude and work ethic, they can be accomplished.
A good leader will do all that’s possible to take care of his Airmen’s future, and in the long run they will do their best to take care of the mission and ultimately you.