Leadership: Professionalism, commitment key to success

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Roy Jones
  • Commander, 802nd Communications Squadron
There are many definitions of leadership. You've probably heard several yourselves.
President Truman said that a leader "Can persuade people to do what they don't want to do ... and like it." According to Warren Bennis, a leader is the one "... to define a vision for the organization."

Finally, leadership has also been defined as motivating a group of people to act to achieve a common goal. While each of these definitions is useful, they all share one common shortcoming. Sticking to these definitions, it's easy to think of leadership as someone else's job.

Here's the thing: the strongest units I've ever been in share a common trait. They have leaders at all levels. Because they had leaders throughout the organization, they were able to achieve amazing results - outstanding ratings in Operational Readiness Inspections, Department of Defense-level awards, and challenging combat operations.
These organizations have a slightly different definition of leadership. They define it as "making something happen that would not otherwise happen by itself." Making something happen requires action. Training a basic trainee, defending a network, analyzing intelligence and generating aircraft sorties happen because an individual took an action.

This happens on our installation on a daily basis. Because these things happen every day, it can be easy to take them for granted, but they don't happen by themselves. An aircraft doesn't fix itself; someone has to make it happen.

By definition, the Airman who made it happen is a leader. That Airman knew what needed to be done, took the initiative, and produced a result. That's leadership. When we begin to see leadership in this way, we begin to see that every Airman is a leader.

Someone might ask, "If everyone is a leader, who is in charge?" I'd respond by asserting what we as professional military members already know. While we are all leaders, we also know and accept that everyone also has a role.

We understand our roles as Airmen, noncommissioned officers, and as officers. It's within these roles that we, as Airmen, exercise leadership. It's how we perform our duties, how we demonstrate professional qualities, and how we display our commitment to the core values that makes us leaders.

With leadership comes responsibility - responsibility for ourselves, for our teammates, and for our unit. Whether you've been in the Air Force 20 months or 20 years, you share responsibility for what happens in your shop, flight, squadron or wing. Leadership isn't someone else's job, it's your job. You're a leader; go make something happen.