Leadership in action

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Early in our Air Force careers we are taught that leadership is the art of influencing people to accomplish the mission. Many would agree that successful leaders possess certain personal characteristics, such as having a positive attitude, compassion or courage that makes them successful. 

Yet others would dispute that having charisma or character is the most essential attribute of a good leader. Although all these characteristics are positive leadership traits, I believe some of the most essential qualities of leadership, though very plain and perhaps sometimes overlooked, are the attributes of dedication to duty and setting the example.

People who are dedicated to the task at hand abound with energy and are usually not satisfied with the status quo. They set milestones; push themselves and their teams toward greater accomplishments and propel the unit forward with a strong desire for success, proliferating synergy. These members see the "big picture" of the mission and its values, providing guidance and direction for the entire organization. 

Leaders also motivate personal growth and professional development by providing challenging and supportive experiences, cultivating participative leadership through empowerment that builds experience, confidence, as well as personal development. Dedicated leaders, who balance devotion to people and mission, create a spirited working environment that inspires quality and pride throughout the unit. I'm sure you can identify people within your own organization who are eager to accept new challenges and responsibilities, who inspire top performance from co-workers and seem to never run low on enthusiasm.

Leaders who influence others by example earn trust and credibility, while promoting teamwork. They do not hesitate to "roll up their sleeves" and jump in with both feet, feverishly working side-by-side with coworkers to complete the mission, establishing trust, credibility and confidence along the way. Often impromptu leaders will present themselves in a similar manner. These would-be leaders are not superior in rank or position to others in the team, but they possess the fortitude and drive to take charge of the situation, organizing and projecting the task forward, molding a united team in the process. Leaders, who lead from the front, earn the respect and trust of the entire team.

Simply stated, to be a leader, you must have followers, and people will follow someone they respect, trust and who sets the example. Leadership is also about team building, both within a single unit or across several units. Teams, created from the synergy of a common goal, establish the bedrock for sound mission success. Without dedicated leaders who set the example everyday by their actions and commitment, today's Airmen face holograms in leadership positions, who simply talk-the-talk versus walk-the-walk.

Take a moment to reflect on your career and experiences. I'm sure there are individuals you've worked with that standout in your mind; someone who emulates your definition of a leader; someone with determination and fortitude that sees every job through to completion; someone with boundless energy; someone who sets the example and delivers. It may be a person from a past assignment, someone from your community, or even a person who shares your same office; whoever has inspired you to be your best. They possess leadership qualities that influenced behavior and had a pronounced impact on mission accomplishment.

Whatever you consider to be the most important qualities of a leader, we can all agree that leadership is a delicate art that requires many different people-orientated skills. By watching and studying leaders in action, we can improve our own leadership style and become more effective in what we do everyday...kick down doors, kill targets and develop our people