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It's Personal ...

  • Published
  • By Col. Slim Morgan
  • 6th Operations Group commander
While there are a lot of common ideas about leadership, I believe that the "formula" for being a successful leader is a very personal thing. When I sat down to think about my personal leadership philosophy, I found myself reaching back to previous leaders whom I have worked for, both good and bad. What I have come up with is a short list, not all-inclusive, of the most important leadership traits to me. That is to say, these are the traits I hope to portray and instill among others. If people remember me as possessing these traits I will consider myself a successful leader. They are not listed in any prioritized order, because I believe a failure in any one of these areas will spell disaster for a would-be leader and the organization.

We are members of an honorable society of warriors. Our success is dependent upon the trust we have in each other. No civilian organization is so uniquely interdependent. Personal and professional integrity demands high standards of morality, ethics, and commitment to the good of the unit, the Air Force and our country that transcend personal ambition and gain. We cannot abuse our positions through fraud, lying, or equivocating our high standards. Be honest with yourself and your country. Do what is right not what is convenient at the time.

We must understand the unit's mission and be able to restate it in our own words. In most instances, achieving the mission requires personal sacrifice. We must instill in the unit a true sense of pride and professionalism that will sustain the people throughout their careers.

We deal with a myriad of people in our lives; we must treat each with courtesy and respect. This holds true not only for our unit but also for all activities that shape our environment. We get a lot more accomplished with polite, reasonable conversation than toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. It's my belief we should bend over backwards to be diplomatic with support organizations. Along these lines, be open to visitors; introduce yourself, make them feel welcome. First impressions are the most important and the most lasting.

Can Do
We must always desire to support our bosses with regard to mission tasking. However, the "Can Do" spirit can result in shortcuts and errors in judgement. We must keep the big picture and ensure our seniors understand the impact of the tasking -- don't be afraid to speak "truth to power." Once a decision is made, however, we must support it.

Every person must respect the rights and privileges of their teammates. The stressful environment in which we operate necessitates personal restraint and conscious consideration of others. An individual's worth and self-esteem are inviolate. Everyone has a right to his or her own private beliefs and opinions. We cannot tolerate coercion or harassment. Every member has the right to live without fear of reprisal for doing their duty.

We know what has to be done ... so we simply must do it. Keeping a positive attitude will ease the stress of accomplishing those tasks. We must stay up to date and assist others who are overburdened by taskings ... we are a team. We must also take time to relax, recreate and get away from the rigors of the job and the military.

Proud standards characterize proud men and women in proud units. Some people equate manliness with profanity, drunkenness, flaunting of authority, etc ... This is absolutely wrong, and we cannot tolerate the man or woman who discredits our unit or any of our teammates. We all have the responsibility to intercede in activities that lead to this behavior. A fine, subtle line separates honest horseplay from an incident that could injure, embarrass, or ruin the reputation and career of an individual. We are professionals; we must conduct ourselves like "Pros."

Ours is a demanding, stressful profession. Physical and mental stamina is required to perform to our utmost. Personal physical readiness is essential. A person who is fit can remain alert longer and has greater reserves to call upon when required. The Air Force demands minimum standards of fitness, and we should build upon these programs by moderation in habits and a regular personal fitness program.

We must take care of our people both on the job and off. This implies that we must know our people and even more important, listen to them. The people on our team are the ones who accomplish the mission. Our job is to make sure they have everything they need to do their job, as well as to remove as many obstacles as possible. We are the filter to keep them freed up to accomplish the mission. Listen to the members of our team, give them what they need, provide any necessary top cover and then get out of the way. Let them amaze us with their ability and accomplishments. Do not hold them back.

Loyalty is the cement that holds us together. It's the basic element of a top-notch unit. Loyalty implies trust and trust implies honesty. Our success and the success of the unit depend on our loyalty and our willingness to do what is right. For example, logs must be complete and scrupulously accurate. Reports, be they written or verbal, must be honest and truly reflect the situation. Loyalty means we air our differences of opinion among ourselves, within the unit and not throughout the base. We must welcome constructive criticism and new ideas ... be part of the solution.

This is my personal philosophy and formula for being a successful leader and I believe it has served me well while commanding three squadrons and two groups. I share it with you in hopes it will help you develop your own personal leadership philosophy.