The U.S. Air Force has taught me lessons and provided very valuable tools for success. Reliability, a strong work ethic and humility are all important characteristics required for any leader. However, the trait I feel is vital and sometimes forgotten is passion.
The definition of passion is, “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, such as love or hate.” It is also defined as, “a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.” Essentially, if a leader is energetic about what they do in a positive way, it becomes infectious to others around them.
Hopefully, when I describe a leader who not only enjoys what they do but also pushes others around them to become successful, you can easily think of someone who has inspired you in the military. For me, I think of a chief master sergeant who was one of the most motivated leaders I have ever come across. Even if I have already heard him speak, he was an individual I made sure to go watch speak at any base event. It was refreshing and recharged us, allowing us to keep the focus on the mission. Things would move, and changes would happen as soon as it was brought to his level, and he did this all while using what I like to call words of champions, “WE,” “US,” “OURS,” “TEAM.” His trust that we could accomplish the mission, along with his desire to push us out of our comfort zone, empowered us to take on challenging tasks, all while coaching us along the way. His leadership style was a force multiplier because he drove us to be critical thinkers while taking calculated risks to improve the mission. Leaders like him see the potential in Airmen; therefore, setting the bar high and driving greatness. It is their fuel!
So, I ask, what is your fuel? What is your passion? Why did you decide to join? Why are you reenlisting? I understand that Airmen initially join for a specific reason whether it be money, travel, to earn their college degree, or to serve this great country. These motivating factors may be one of the reasons to join, but having passion is critical in being a successful leader to those who continue to serve. As someone who has been in the greatest Air Force for 23 years, I continue to serve for the sheer love of it. Influencing young men and women to be great individuals positively motivates me to continue to put on the uniform each day. Often, I come across young Airmen wanting to make this a career and take on the challenges our nation faces. That is the ultimate motivation for me to step my game up and pour every ounce of energy I have into helping them succeed, much like how my chief and so many other great mentors did for me.
With the new challenges our nation, Defense Department and the Air Force are currently facing, we need leaders at all levels to first ask themselves what their passion is and why they are continuing to serve. Remembering our why will keep us focus on what is truly important. It can keep us positively motivated to influence those around us. Now that I am in a position to carry on the tradition of outstanding leadership that paved the way for me, I remember that our Airmen are brilliant, creative and most importantly, they want to be here. They want to serve and be positively led. When we apply this enthusiasm and energy day in and day out, it becomes infectious. Great leaders can have different leadership styles, but one thing that should stand out is their passion for their people. We are definitely in challenging times, so it is critical to have an “all hands on deck” mentality while looking for potential in all of our people. Continue to use your passion as a compass to keep you focused because it will be needed for all of us moving forward.