Leadership… GO FOR IT!

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Terry Feehan
  • Electronic Systems Center vice commander
LEADERSHIP. You are currently in a position of leadership. It does not matter if you're an airman basic or a general officer, a general service grade-two employee or a senior executive. Regardless, you have the ability and in most cases, an obligation to lead.
Now, I do not profess to be an expert on leadership, nor would I presume to prescribe a checklist on how to be a leader. Instead, my goal here is to convince you that you have both the ability and opportunity to lead from your current position. You must simply GO FOR IT! 

To me the ability to lead comes from demonstrating three traits; integrity in what we say and do, excellent performance in our job and a commitment to the mission and other people. It is not grade dependent. These traits parallel the Air Force Core Values, but they apply anywhere people interact. 

Integrity establishes the foundation of anyone's leadership. Subordinates will not follow a leader they do not trust. Peers do not accept the word of someone who let them down before. Superiors will not entrust a questionable subordinate with an important job or task. Integrity is what makes the difference. Once you've demonstrated that your word is your bond, that you'll suffer almost any cost to keep your word, then you will be sought to lead. Your group may be three airmen on a detail, a working group of secretaries trying to improve an administrative process, or an entire squadron. It does not matter. Peers and subordinates will nominate you to lead because they know you can be trusted and superiors will select you because they know you will meet your commitments. 

Excellent performance gives a leader credibility. We must seek to know and perform our job better than anyone. We must learn from our mistakes. We must teach others. These things will make you the expert. You may not be the AF expert today, but doing your very best can make you the expert in your work group or organization. This expertise then gives you credibility and creates opportunities for leadership. Credible people are asked for their opinion, they are put in charge of process improvement and they have a voice in the operation of their unit. 

Commitment to the mission and other people provides the final and most demanding element of leadership... sacrifice. We must be willing to stay until the job is done and we must treat others fairly and honestly along the way. A leader does not watch the clock or avoid the hard task. The hardest jobs are done by those willing to take the challenge, risk failure, and give of themselves. Opportunities will arise, but you must be willing to take them. 

Our smaller than ever Air Force is also America's best ever Air Force. This is possible because people in every grade and position step up to be leaders. These leaders accepted the challenge to change things for the better. Their impact may only affect their office or it may be felt across the entire wing. It does not matter. It is the roll-up effect of all these leaders' efforts that make us great. You have the integrity, performance and commitment to make a difference--to be a leader. GO FOR IT!