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Become relevant: Invest in yourself, others, the mission

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Shawn Drinkard
  • 90th Security Forces Group
Mighty Ninety. We inherited our freedom and did not fight to gain it, however, we ensure freedom endures every day. The 90th Missile Wing projects strategic deterrence, giving other instruments of military power the freedom of action and movement. Every Airman who performs our mission directly contributes to our nation's security.

With so much responsibility, our Air Force requires leaders who are devoted to investing in themselves, their Airmen and the mission. Leadership is not just for the senior ranking; every Airman is a leader. When an opportunity presents itself, we must be prepared and poised to step up and take the lead at any time.

Leaders invest in their followers, but must also invest in themselves. To invest in our self, we put energy towards developing attributes that are fundamental to effective leadership.

The common denominator behind any leader is authority. Rank and position most often give us authority. Each Airman in this wing possesses some level of authority to lead. Authority is just the beginning and experienced leaders rarely leverage authority to lead. Junior and developing leaders rely on authority as they grow and learn to embrace obligations and mission requirements.

Authority is what we are "allowed" to do, while obligation and requirements are what we "must" do. Obligations address the higher purpose of leadership. Each member of this wing must never forget we are a part of something far greater than ourselves and we have an obligation to be the very best at what we do.

Authority and obligations are just the starting point for effective leadership and serve as a launching pad for the person-centered attributes of competence, character and personality.

Competence is our overarching ability gained through education, training and experience. Character and personality alone fall short when we do not have the competence to carry out responsibilities. Even if we are willing to do what is right and are able to get Airmen to buy-in, we cannot be successful if we do not know what success looks like.

I can personally relate to having a need to develop competence. When I arrived here in 2010, I had never worked in the nuclear enterprise. I found myself having the authority and obligation to lead in this arena, while being at risk of not having the competence for the current mission environment. I acknowledged this and got my head in the directives that govern this mission set.

I immediately got out with the Airmen in the trenches; I experienced the mission from the Airman perspective. I feel this helped me gain both competence and credibility among those I led. I am a perfect example that learning and growing never stops. Competence alone is not enough to be an effective leader; therefore, we must be able and willing to combine our competence with character and positive attitude.

Our character and attitude is what Airmen observe and relate to. A former wing commander of mine used to say, "leaders need more than character, leaders need character and toughness; an Airman with character and no toughness is a spectator and an Airman with toughness and no character is a bully."

Character is what we "will" do and attitude is "how" we do it. A positive attitude is what Airmen cling to; it is what Airmen gravitate towards. Mission competence, integrity in action and a positive attitude is fundamental to motivating Airmen and is what makes leaders relevant in their organizations.

We invest in our personal leadership bank when we appropriately leverage our authority, embrace our obligations and deliberately develop ourselves to maximize our competence. We invest in our Airmen when our observable leadership behavior models moral, courage, integrity and enthusiasm despite less than perfect conditions.

Becoming a relevant leader should be the goal of every Airman, regardless of rank or position. Relevance is both on and off-duty and will inspire Airmen to accomplish something they did not think was possible. Relevance is impacting change. Relevance is galvanizing a strict culture of compliance while inviting innovation. Relevance is defending America with the world's premier combat-ready ICBM force.

Are you relevant? Yes, you are! You stand tall, shoulder-to-shoulder among the ranks of the finest officer and enlisted corps; you are the envy of every other Air Force in the world. You are the very best at what you do, end of story.