Diamond Notes: Success through leadership

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Editor’s note: This is the eighth in a series of commentaries by Cannon’s first sergeants and additional-duty first sergeants providing mentorship and leadership experience to Air Commandos, while highlighting Air Force standards.

Having served almost 20 years in the Air Force, I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn from and work beside some of the greatest leaders the Air Force has ever seen. I do not claim to be a subject matter expert on leadership, nor do I consider myself to be a great leader; however, I do feel that I know enough about the subject to share my thoughts on how great leadership can result in a successful unit.

The Air Force’s definition of leadership is the art of influencing and directing people to accomplish the mission. This very difficult task can be accomplished if leaders at every level keep two very important elements in mind: successfully completing the mission, and taking care of people.

Great leaders know the importance of the unit’s personnel and their role in completing the mission. Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Curtis E. Lemay stated, “No matter how well you apply the art of leadership, no matter how strong your unit or how high the morale of your men, if your leadership is not directed completely toward the mission, your leadership has failed.”

I have always believed that this meant as a leader, if I was taking care of my Airmen and their needs it would ensure that the unit’s mission would be successful.

All Airmen possess the capacity to be leaders regardless of position or rank. Leadership is not a birth right, it is learned and developed. How we develop ourselves and our Airmen will determine if we will ever truly become effective leaders.

It is important that we continue to add to our leadership tool kit by seeking professional military education, on-the-job training and professional development. A great leader will ensure that his or her subordinates are given the opportunities to learn leadership traits through deliberate development.

It is through these experiences that we gain the qualities that it takes to be a great leader. Although there are many leadership qualities to speak of, there are a few that I have seen make lasting impacts on personnel and units across my career:

Enthusiasm
I believe this trait is the most contagious of all. Throughout time, the most successful leaders have demonstrated enthusiasm for the mission and their people. A leader’s enthusiasm is contagious and will spread through a unit to motivate others to adjust to the unit’s needs.

Commitment
As leaders we must demonstrate a complete devotion to the Air Force, our unit’s mission and our subordinates; if we do this, our Airmen will want to follow us.

Credibility
As leaders we have to be willing to do what we ask our Airmen to do and more if we can. We must lead by example at all times. Always remembering that we all are on parade and we must avoid showing stress when dealing with challenging situations.

Communication

Communication is a two-way process; listen to what your people are saying, - they have great ideas. Share the importance of the mission and its impact on national interests. A well-informed Airman recognizes the importance of his or her job and will be more effective.

Responsibility
Leaders are responsible for the unit’s mission; if it fails, we must accept the consequences. Along this line is also accountability; reward a job well done and hold those who fail to meet the established standards accountable.

Throughout my time here at Cannon I have witnessed many successes. I believe this directly correlates with the great leadership we have developed. These are leaders at all levels, not just senior officers or NCOs, but airmen as well; individuals who want this wing to be successful not for personal gain, but because it is expected of them.

I challenge you to find leadership opportunities that will provide you with additional professional development, and make the time to take advantage of the many educational opportunities here at Cannon. Doing these things will ensure that this wing continues to develop the leaders needed to ensure continued success.