Leadership. As Airmen this is a word that we hear all the time. In light of this, the word can sometimes become watered down to where we think we have nothing to do with leadership.
Is leadership just a buzz word that we have nothing to offer to affect its outcome? Does leadership strictly apply to those individuals who are higher ranking than us and in our chain of command? Is leadership just some concept that we will only understand or have to deal with when we become NCOs, senior NCOs or officers?
Personally, I don’t think this is the case. Every waking moment we have a chance to be a leader, to inspire, to demand, and to regulate excellence in our lives and the lives of those we work with. It all starts with a choice. It’s a choice to say no to apathy and carelessness and a choice to say yes to purpose and passion.
I’ll never forget what a former instructor of mine once told me. He was a senior master sergeant who had been on multiple combat tours in his career. He expressed that we as Airmen and warriors, deserve what we tolerate.
Nothing has ever opened my eyes more than this statement. When applied to our lives, this statement annihilates being a victim and demands true leadership occur. The power and control is in our hands. It’s in our creed — wingman, leader and warrior. There is no clause in the creed that states we become leaders at a later date. No, it pronounces us as leaders “right now.”
And leaders deserve what they tolerate. If you tolerate poor nutrition and fitness, you will not pass your physical training test. If you tolerate not having a plan or being responsible, you will get a DUI, or worse possibly hurt yourself and others. If you tolerate mediocrity in the workplace, you won’t do well on your performance reports and possibly hinder promotion opportunities. There is no one else to blame because whatever happens is a result of what we tolerate.
On the other hand, if we tolerate excellence, we will enjoy the fruit of our labor. When we take responsibility for our own lives and become leaders in the areas we can control, we can then be trusted for bigger things and lead others. It all starts with us. Once we do that, we can positively influence others.
I challenge all of us right now to start leading from the front in whatever way we are being called to do. Take on a new project, join an on-base organization, take a new class or learn a new language. Whatever it is, put your whole soul into it and become a leader right now. Never tolerate anything less than the absolute best.