Commentary

July 3, 2014

Layers of leadership

Col. David Chiesa
71st Medical Group

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Remember the movie “Captain America?”

The main character tried to join the Army under different names and in different cities, yet he was always denied because of his size and perceived notions about his abilities. This comic book hero eventually overcame his lack of physical attributes, and defeated the greatest threat of World War II – Hydra.

Our Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, published Air Force Instruction 1-2, “Commander’s Responsibilities,” May 8. The information contained within it can be described as “back to the basics of leadership.” I see these basics embodied with Captain America, a man with many layers. Let’s peel back his layers of leadership and explore how we can improve ourselves by following his example and our own AFI.

Picture a room filled with 20 people engaged in a heated discussion. You can see them but they cannot see you. Now pick the leader out of the group. Think about how you would identify the leader. What about him or her stands out to you?

You have preconceived ideas on what a leader should look and act like, what their short comings are and what values they hold.

These are the layers of the leadership. Your strength in each layer determines how successful a leader you will be.

When you first imagined the people in the room, you assigned physical features to each. This is the outer layer of leadership. What is your leader’s personal appearance? Imagine how they dress. Think of their body language and posture. Are they well groomed? Do they have good communication skills? Is he or she well-mannered and non-interruptive? In a nutshell, do they look confident?

True leaders have a certain presence about them. If someone does not take good care of themselves, it will be difficult to care for others. Your physical appearance matters. It is the first thing people see.

A picture perfect appearance can mask all the other layers, however, so let’s peel it back and expose the more vulnerable aspects of our leader.

Here we find our leader’s strengths, weaknesses and blind spots. Everybody has blind spots. They are what others see about you that you do not see about yourself. A true friend, mentor, supervisor or leader will be honest with you about your blind spot. You are making yourself vulnerable, so prepare to be humbled.

Let’s peel back another layer to expose his or her character.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.”

The way you let events affect you impacts your character. Eventually, bitterness will show up as a blind spot or as a blemish in your physical appearance. Work to become better not bitter. Seek assistance if you have circumstances in your life you cannot deal with – that is a sign of courage.

The core of our perfect leader is unique. He or she understands they were made for a purpose, a unique purpose. And they pursue that purpose with perseverance.

Do you know what your purpose is? Do you understand how unique you are? Take the time to find out what you were meant to do with your life. Set goals and vigorously tackle the obstacles in your way. If you need help, speak to your mentors. They will point you in the right direction.

When Captain America was chosen to become a “super soldier,’ he was evaluated on the quality of his character and not on his outward appearance. His inner layers, his core values and his desire to serve his country, drove his new outward appearance. He became the ideal leader.

I challenge each of you to start with your inner core and develop each layer until your outermost layer reflects the qualities inside. Use AFI 1-2 as your guide. Strengthen your layers, and embody the spirit of leaders like Captain America. Have the courage to read it and go “back to the basics.”




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