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Leadership--It's Not about You

JOINT BASE ANDREWS Md. -- The sooner you accept the fact leadership is not about you, the sooner you can focus on your Airmen, the organization and the mission.

Leaders who use their positions for their own agenda or personal goals often end up bitter and disappointed. If your goals are to pursue awards, recognition, and outshine your peers, you risk eventually compromising your ability to lead and your Airmen's pride and attitude will suffer.

I say this because you may have turned down the path of entitlement, competing against others, rather than yourself. If so, when you see others earn the award or recognition you feel you "deserved," now you feel the unit "owes" you for your efforts. As soon as these feelings arise, it's time to take a step back and reevaluate yourself, your goals, and your motivation. When continuing down the path of self-entitlement, not only does the unit lose, but so do the Airmen and their families.

As a leader, whether by duty title, position or rank, you set the tone of those subordinate to you. You are responsible for training them, providing them the resources to succeed, and pointing them in the right direction. Then step aside and let them get to the mission!

Bear in mind, every word, action, and decision you make is being watched, judged and remembered. You make a difference in all you do because Airmen learn from every interaction with each other.

We learn how others makes us feel when they treat us in a negative way, so we avoid treating others like this as not to repeat the behavior. We learn how not to supervise and how to supervise from "bad" and "good" supervisors.

For example, I had just arrived at my third duty station and was scheduled to meet with my commander as required on my in-processing checklist. I had been through several supervisors and commanders and expected this to be another brief  "Hello, welcome to the unit. Where do I initial?"

To my surprise, I sat in the office with a busy commander for nearly 30 minutes. I told him my previous experiences, the names of my wife and kids, and even some personal goals I had. From that day on, every time I ran into him, he asked about me and my family, by name. Eight years, three duty stations, and four commanders later, he still remembered me and my family and asked about us. It was obvious he took a personal interest in his people and sincerely cared. He made me feel like our interactions were about me.

I value that trait and now I try to emulate it my interactions and do my best to convey a sincere interest in our Airmen. The commanders' sincere selflessness not only made a difference in my career, but hopefully also in the careers of the Airmen I have supervised, mentored and interacted with.

Ultimately, we all volunteered to serve. Sometime during our careers we may stray off course and subjugate the mission and organization to our personal desires. It's human nature, but when that happens, remember to step back and do some self-reflection. Be self-aware and avoid becoming that bitter, disappointed leader. After all, leadership is not about you. We owe it to our nation's sons and daughters to put our best foot forward at every opportunity--because you make a difference every day.