Leading Airmen happens at every level and preparation is the key to success.
A couple of weeks ago I watched two Airmen lead the clinic through resiliency training. As I looked at the members of the family health clinic I felt many things. The medics unabashedly participated in the training led by two Airmen who have been in the Air Force less than three months collectively.
Throughout the training, I observed the faces of those participating and those leading the discussion, and the prevailing emotion I had was one of pride.
My awe was soon overtaken by thoughts of the time the Airmen must have spent preparing to lead their team in such an important discussion. It was clear that these Airmen took pride in what they were teaching and cared enough to prepare so that every detail was covered. Well planned tasks prove to be successful each and every time. We all should prepare to be prepared. But when does this preparation begin?
Preparation happens daily and there are many levels. We prepare for work by ironing our uniform the night before or pack our lunch for work the next day. At times you have to prepare months or years in advance in order to successfully complete the tasks. The medical group recently completed a health services inspection showcasing programs and processes employed in the delivery of healthcare. Prior to the inspection, senior NCOs, junior officers and senior leaders collected documents, ensured processes were in place and fine-tuned every program to capture the essence of what the medical group does on a daily basis. This took months of deliberate preparation. A great deal of planning, checking and re-checking occurred before the inspectors arrived. The highly prepared men and women of the medical group received an ‘outstanding’ on the inspection. This score did not happen by chance.
Preparation was key to our success.
This is but one example of preparation. Preparation has many faces. Completing career development courses and professional military education are required tasks to advance to the next level of proficiency and expanded leadership opportunities. Managing time and creating organizational skills will further prepare one for advanced leadership responsibility. Preparation may even come in the form of a volunteer opportunity by completing a project through which one grows and develops skills not previously possessed. Preparation can be as simple as reviewing documents prior to a meeting ensuring smooth progression of the meeting or looking ahead at the week’s events and ensuring all is in place for each one. In whatever form, preparation is one of the tenets to being a successful commander, a successful supervisor and an accomplished leader.
At the beginning of this opinion, I posed the question, when does preparation begin? As demonstrated by the young Airmen above, preparation begins when we enter into this great Air Force. I challenge you to improve the success of your tasks by preparing in advance. Spend the time learning and excelling in your craft and you will create discipline along the way. Take the time to learn your heritage and develop good Airman qualities. It’s of the utmost importance that you manage well your most valuable commodity – your time. So when the opportunity finally comes to lead, you will excel and create a great product because you have taken the time to prepare.
Being a leader, a commander is an honor. To do the job justice, to honor those whom we lead and those who selected us — preparation is the first step.