Leadership, depending on who you ask, can have many definitions. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines leadership as: “1. the office or position of a leader; 2. capacity to lead; and 3. the act or an instance of leading.” Wikipedia defines leadership as “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.” In a military environment, these are both good starting points but fall short of encompassing the essence of leadership. The following are my personal ABCs on leadership:
- A – Apply the core values: One of the greatest pieces of advice I was given was from the fifth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Robert Gaylor: “Everything I’ve ever needed to know to do my job I learned in basic military training …” In the context of a larger conversation, Gaylor was referring to our core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. If the things you do and the decisions you make can be bench checked against the core values (and pass), then you are most likely on the right track.
- B – Be consistent: One of the most common mistakes I see young supervisors and leaders make is not being consistent. Everything that comes out of your mouth should be a promise, and be as fair and impartial as you can.
- C – Courage under fire: Have the moral courage to make tough calls and stand by them. Leaders rarely win the popular vote with 100 percent of their followers.
- D – Delegate with confidence: Delegate and empower your Airmen. When appropriate, let them stand on their own two feet and allow them leadership opportunities early on.
- E – Empathy: Becoming a young supervisor/leader does not cancel all the bonehead mistakes you have made along the way. In fact, they helped you gain experience and develop into the person you are today. Your subordinates will make mistakes as they grow and develop into young leaders. Don’t forget where you came from, and let your Airmen do their own growing up, when appropriate.
- F – Follow through: Fire-and-forget leadership is one of the worst things you can do as a leader. The phrase “trust but verify” comes to mind here. Trust your Airmen, but verify. Is the job done right?
- G – Goal setting: It is said that the difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline. Set high, but obtainable, goals and achieve them. If you don’t achieve your goal, then don’t change the goal. Instead, change the steps you use to reach that goal.
In every unit, there are leaders waiting to mentor our young Airmen and mold them into outstanding supervisors and leaders. Are you one of them?