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Leaders ACT for success

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Robert MacKenzie
  • 37th Helicopter Squadron commander
The acronym "ACT" has been used for years in the Operational Risk Management world as a memory aid to first assess the situation, then consider the options and finally take action.

I've always liked this acronym - it implies what should be a basic premise of our military and that is to take action. I've adjusted ACT to my leadership philosophy. Now, I'm not saying that these are the only three principles of leadership. We're all aware of the countless traits that can be contributed to good leaders, but these three set my foundation and help guide me as I fulfill Air Force Global Strike Command's mission.

For me, ACT means accountability, courage and teamwork.

The first attribute is accountability. This principle is so basic, I almost could stop here. There is nothing more basic than accountability. It encompasses so many things of our military profession. Personal accountability alone could be discussed for many pages. It encompasses ensuring you have a good uniform, staying physically fit, knowing the regulations and guidance as well as fulfilling your personal duties your unit depends on to get the mission done.

As a follower, it involves being accountable to your supervisor. Making sure you know what is important to your boss and working your best to make sure those goals are achieved. As a supervisor, it means being accountable to your subordinates. Taking the time to mentor them, provide them with career guidance and provide the leadership they need to get the mission done.

Courage makes up the second part of the acronym. By courage, I don't necessarily mean physical courage, although that may be needed in many situations. In some ways, I think that moral courage can be more difficult than physical courage. Moral courage means standing up when you see something wrong. It means taking actions when those around you have fallen into that trap of status quo. It can be very easy to go along with the crowd and not go against the grain, but from my experience, once an individual stands up for what is right, those around will follow - the only difference is that they lacked the courage to take a stand.

Be the Airmen who prevents one of your co-workers from driving after having too much to drink. Be the Airmen that won't stand for shoddy or improvised work - insist on technical order discipline. Courage is the essence of leadership, it enables action. We must find it in ourselves and demand it from our troops.

The final piece is teamwork. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University's basketball coach, has a motto for every new freshman player who arrives on campus: "Everyday do something for someone other than yourself."

If teamwork can be fostered in the squadron, the synergistic results can be inspiring. Become the person who fosters teamwork in your unit. When a new Airmen arrives on station, let them know how lucky they are to be in your squadron because of the strong teamwork that exists. Be the first one to take a co-worker's shift if something comes up. Be the teammate who is looking out for others in the squadron. Once a squadron truly fosters this teamwork attitude, it will become a source of pride and then failing to live up to that pride will become the exception instead of the norm.

Hopefully, you have a list of your own leadership traits that you follow. These have helped me set expectations for my squadron and myself. As long as I can remember to ACT, I know I will be heading in the right direction.