Leadership words of wisdom

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Charles Gibson
  • 39th Communications Squadron superintendent
Being a leader can be one of your most rewarding experiences or one of your greatest failures. According to the Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241,Professional Development Guide: "Leadership is the art and science of motivating, influencing, and directing Airmen to accomplish the Air Force mission in joint warfare. This highlights two fundamental elements of leadership: (1) the mission, objective, or task to be accomplished, and (2) the Airmen who accomplish it."  This definition highlights the Air Force's expectations of our leaders at all levels. During my career, I've had the opportunity to be led by some great leaders and learn from Airmen who fell short of the definition. For the purpose of this article, I would like to offer the following words of wisdom I've learned about leadership and leading Airmen over the years.

· Strive to excel with all aspects of the Air Force core values - Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do. Do what's right ... even when no one's watching, be willing to get the job done even when it's not necessarily convenient, and always excel at everything you do.

· Always lead by example and hold yourself to a higher standard - Ask yourself, if you're not willing to do something yourself, why should your Airmen do it? You need to "lead from the front" and show them you're willing to do that task. This includes getting your Associates degree from the Community College of the Air Force and completing all of your enlisted professional military education requirements as soon as you're eligible to enroll.

· Grow Where You Are Planted - Simply put, we oftentimes do not have control over where we are assigned or "planted," but we have total control of what we do while there. If you get selected for or you're currently assigned to a job outside of your desires or wishes, own it. Do your best no matter what the assignment is and simply excel.

· Lead, manage, and supervise with hindsight and foresight - Learn from your mistakes. Even better, learn from mistakes other people make, try to avoid pitfalls, and anticipate future requirements.

· Trust, but Verify and don't get stuck behind your desk - Build trust with your subordinates, but check to ensure the job is getting done correctly.  Additionally, make certain you're visible and approachable to your Airmen. This is tough with all of the short notice e-mail taskers and meetings, but your personnel need to see you.

· Hone your time management skills - Build a schedule and do your best to stick to it. As noted above, you don't always get to control your time so do your best at managing the time you do control.

· Take care of your Airmen - Mentor them, set them up for success, provide clear guidance on your expectations and requirements, be fair, be consistent, do your best to make them want to strive for excellence, encourage them to innovate or enhance the mission, get them recognized when they're doing great things (letters of appreciation, coins, quarterly awards, functional awards, annual awards), and finally, if necessary, don't be afraid to hold them accountable for not meeting your expectations and requirements.

· Not everyone is meant to stay in the Air Force - Everyone is unique and we all have different goals and desires ... develop all of your Airmen not just those who plan on staying in.

· Take care of your fellow NCOs and SNCOs - We all need support, even when we're not willing to admit it.

· Support junior officer development - Share knowledge and experience, when appropriate, to best meet the organizations' challenges. As a reminder, young lieutenants grow up to be senior officers and commanders.

· Take care of yourself and your family - This is key to your overall functionality ... if you don't do this, how can you possibly succeed? 

If you lead your Airmen correctly, you'll have happier Airmen that want to excel and accomplish the mission.  Additionally, you'll have successfully developed the next generation of Air Force leaders.

If you don't lead your Airmen correctly, you'll have disgruntled personnel that won't properly accomplish the mission, will poison the minds of those they lead and work with or they'll just get out of the Air Force. 

These words of wisdom come from many years of experience.  As a young supervisor, NCOIC, section chief and now squadron superintendent, I've developed many Airmen.  Some of them have stayed in the Air Force while others have gotten out ... hopefully; all of them were better off having worked for or with me.  Take pride in the development, growth and success of your Airmen ... I know I'm proud of my Airmen.

Be the leader your Airmen will want to emulate ... one that that gets the job done, takes care of their personnel, and makes great future Air Force leaders.