The power of leading with a positive attitude

  • Published
  • By Maj. Timothy M. Liebold
  • former 509th Munitions Squadron commander

As my time as the commander of the 509th Munitions Squadron ends on May 30, I have spent numerous hours reflecting on the past 24 months at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. My main contemplation is, "Have I been an effective leader in the ever-changing Air Force in which we live, work and operate?" 

Some would say "yes" because we were successful in events such as the Nuclear Surety Inspection, Operation ODESSEY LIGHTNING, Conventional Readiness Assessment, and countless other Wing and MAJCOM inspections. While those accomplishments prove our mission readiness and compliance with all directives, I would say that the interpersonal relationships that we foster and build with our fellow Airmen play a significant role in being a successful leader.

As a commander, it is easy to get bogged down with negative events. Therefore, during my time at Whiteman, I made a conscious effort to focus on the positive actions of the Airmen who work in the squadron and the Airmen I have interacted with throughout the base. The more positivity we develop and propel, the more resilient we become. Author Jack Canfield explains the philosophy well when he said, "Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them."

Cultivating optimism reduces negativity within us and across the Air Force. We live in a culture where it is common to assume worst case scenarios for most encounters, causing us to overlook the amazing things our members do on a daily basis. Expecting the worst often gets us the worst, and this behavior creates fear in the workforce. On the other hand, looking for the positive and focusing on the positive shows Airmen you truly care about them as individuals verses seeing them as a number. Musician Willie Nelson summarizes the power of being positive: "Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results."

The power of positivity is enormous and can motivate an organization to accomplish amazing things. If you come into work with a positive attitude and a smile on your face, you can transform your organization into a place where everyone will want to come to work. Motivational speaker Les Brown said, "Your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you."

Followers mirror the actions of their leaders and when we lead positively, we are training Airmen at all levels to do the same. In the end, it is important to remember that most Airmen will not remember what you said to them, but they will always remember how you made them feel.