Many could say that the best leaders they’ve encountered were inspiring individuals. From religious icons to heads of state and military leaders, they all seem to have one common trait — they inspire others.
I have always been a history buff, specifically the history of the middle ages. As such, I belong to a very large international organization that is dedicated to education and recreation of that time period. One concept that is central to behavior within this organization is the notion of chivalry, which, as most know, is the code that knights were sworn to uphold.
Recently, I was part of a discussion about chivalry, when the question was posed, “What makes a person inspiring?” Ironically, I kept reflecting on my military career, recalling supervisors and other leaders in my life who I had observed. The answers that followed were varied, but all had some common themes. As we discussed it further, we were able to narrow the answers to a few simple ones: honesty and integrity, selflessness and exceptional effort.
If these three points seem familiar, it’s because they are also the foundation of our core values in the Air Force. I would like to expand on them from the perspective of chivalry, as I discussed it with my friends, and match it with our core values:
Integrity first: A knight always tells the truth, even if it means his death.
Are you honest in your personal and professional dealings? Do you do what is right, even when no one is looking? Do you do what is right, even if the personal cost is high?
Service before self: A knight always thinks of how his works can benefit others and seeks for the betterment of the whole, rather than his own station. Do you work for the people you supervise, or do they work for you? That is, does the work you do benefit those you supervise? Do you look out for their best interests in their careers and personal lives, or are you more interested in your own advancement? Ultimately, do you work for the good of the mission?
Excellence in all we do: A knight always gives more than what is asked of him. He exceeds others expectations of him in all he does.
In your military role as a leader, do you go beyond the minimum? Do you make the extra effort to excel? Do you seek to continuously improve yourself through education in your job or in general? Do you give your job more than what is asked?
Living a life of chivalry (the core values) doesn’t imply that you have to be a perfect knight (airman, NCO, or officer), just that you always try to do your best at meeting the values of chivalry in all you do. If you do, I guarantee you will be an inspiration to someone in your personal or professional life.