One of my favorite scenes from the movie “Independence Day” was the motivational speech by actor Bill Pullman. My wife pokes fun at me as I stop to watch it every time it comes on. As the president eloquently bellows his closing line, “Today is our Independence Day,” the background music builds to a perfectly timed crescendo and a thunderous applause is heard from the crowd.
To me, it is emotional, awe-inspiring, and worth watching again and again. That’s leadership right? At least that’s Hollywood leadership anyway.
Years ago I heard a quote by Vietnam War veteran and ace Steve Ritchie in response to a question about his favorite leader throughout his career. He stated very simply, “That’s easy. My commander in Vietnam, because of the person I became when I was around him.”
Now that is influence. That is inspiration. That is leadership. Of course he was talking about the late, great Robin Olds. An aviation legend, Olds was larger than life — a flamboyant, outspoken, handlebar mustache-laden hero.
Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Olds impacted everyone around him, simply by his mere presence. He made people want to be better. That is leadership.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have screenwriters and the magic of cinema. And most of us aren’t Robin Olds. Fortunately however, you don’t have to be. You don’t need the audacity and flamboyance of a Robin Olds, or a Hollywood soundtrack and perfectly maintained hair to make an impact. You don’t need to be loud, aggressive, emotional or even extroverted to be a leader. In most cases, all you need to be is honest, courageous, trustworthy, and exhibit both character and competence. All you need to be is a positive example and have a good attitude. Lastly, all you need to be is you.
Every single day we come to work, every single day we wear this uniform, people watch what we do, from our most junior Airman to our most senior officer. So much more than the things we say, people watch what we do and our actions truly do speak volumes. How do we lead? Who we are determines that. But who we are is a choice that we make.
Real leadership stems from the choices we make. What will you choose?