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Have the courage to lead today

  • Published
  • By Maj. Joel Briske
  • 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron commander
Throughout Air Force Global Strike Command, I am not the first, nor the last who will ever talk about leadership. What I really want to emphasize the fact that leading is first and foremost, not managing. Secondly, leading is hard work that cannot be done by alone. Next, anyone can lead regardless of position or rank. Lastly, if you are a leader, act like it!
Management vs. Leadership

Why does leadership require management? What is management? Management is the ability to oversee a process or system in a way to meet required results. Okay with that said, isn't that leadership? I would say it sounds like leadership, but there is a significant difference. Leadership has a greater emphasis on the human element of reaching those management goals.

Leaders lead people, not systems or processes. So, leadership is more about knowing the people you work with - knowing what is important to them, what motivates them to work hard, and more importantly, for them to know that you care about what is important to them.

Does that mean that you cater to everyone's interest? Absolutely not, but you must communicate with the people you work with so they understand that first and foremost you care about their input and secondly, (if it is appropriate to share with them) why you made a decision or changed direction on why or how something is to be done. Simply stated, people understand the need to change direction if you can communicate the need.

Leadership is not a one person mission

Yes, as a leader you are responsible to your superiors for the management of systems and processes and the leadership of people. However, you cannot do it alone. You have to be able to clearly articulate your direction and purpose, and it needs to be understood at the lowest level. This is not an overnight event. This will take months and even longer if you continue to change direction. For failure to put in the time to develop how your mission direction directly affects how the 90th Missile Wing, 20th Air Force and the command's vision and mission is carried out.

When you start to hear others within your work environment articulate to fellow Airman your direction and the reason why that direction was chosen, you are on your way to leading. You need your personnel to be a part of your leadership. Again, they must know your vision and direction, but they also need to understand how their work fits into the bigger picture. Everyone is important in your unit, and the mission will suffer without their commitment.

I don't have the rank to lead

Anyone can lead. Some of the very best leaders I have seen are airmen first class and senior airmen. Why? Besides their individual motivation, they have continual contact with the personnel they lead. The personnel they lead know exactly what is required of them and why they need to do their work. Keeping that in mind, as you progress in position or rank, you tend to lose that face-to-face leadership. Therefore, you must strive to keep as much face-to-face contact with your team. Let them hear from you what is going on and why changes are being made. It makes no difference if you are a squadron commander, a team chief or fire team leader; there is nothing better for those you lead than hearing it straight from the horse's mouth.

If you are a leader act like it

Ideas, philosophies, intentions and plans are all useless without action. If you are a leader, act, direct actions and follow through until the desired results are what meet mission requirements. You cannot manage people; you will have to actually talk to them and listen to them to understand the best ways to lead. If you are a leader, the accountability rests in your hands. Take responsibility for accurately measuring your team's progress, make changes when required and talk face-to-face with your team as much as you can.

Alone, on my very best days, with the wind at my back, I feel I am a 4.5 out of 10 on leadership; I can always do better. However, it's my entire squadron team as a whole, leading from their respective levels, that push mission effectiveness to 11!