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Leadership - Being a part of something bigger than yourself

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Just last week, I attended a Senior NCO Induction Ceremony. The event was held at an upscale hotel downtown, with more than 400 people in attendance, including Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz. It was a premier event, with Air Force District of Washington Command Chief Master Sgt. Battenberg as the guest speaker, and 95 Technical Sergeants being inducted into the Top-3 enlisted grades. Considering the magnitude of this undertaking, when the people responsible for the event's success were publicly recognized, I was surprised that the number seemed relatively few. This caused me to begin thinking about a very important aspect of leadership - being a part of something bigger than yourself.

When you consider this challenge, a plethora of thoughts may immediately flood your minds, such as, "I'm too busy to get involved in an activity like this," "I've got too much on my plate," "I can't commit right now," or "maybe later, after things slow down a bit."

According to the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work in many events or organizations. To be successful as leaders, we need to be alert to the needs of others, and assert our support to be able to meet their needs. Internalize the old English idiom, "Many hands make light work", and remember that when more people are involved in a task or an event, the workload is easier for all to bear.

To develop, grow and hone your leadership skills, you will need to step up and make yourself available as viable assets to your units and organizations. This may mean that you will need to improve your time management skills or reshuffle your priorities. If you don't have the time to take on a full-time leadership position in a private organization, consider taking a leadership or supportive role as a member of a planning committee for events such as a Unit Holiday Party, or the Air Force Ball. Here in the National Capital Region, opportunities are plenteous and abundant.

Okay, now that you have decided to take on a leadership role or serve as an integral member of a committee, you may discover a critical vacancy exists that you don't readily possess the skills for, or don't feel qualified to support. Maybe you feel that you are not good at something, that you are not up to the task, or the right person for the job.

Remember, leaders make efforts to overcome their weaknesses ... and achieve success. Consider this as an opportunity to challenge and face your weaknesses. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Take the risk -- it will be well worth it. By tackling your challenges today, and meeting them head on, you are taking valuable opportunities to turn your weaknesses of today into your strengths of tomorrow. That's how we grow as leaders. Once we overcome a deficiency and turn it into as asset, our quality of life improves. You may discover that you have a natural talent in an area you've been reluctant to consider serving in. You just may surprise yourself, and change your life in the process. Pursue excellence, and make it your watchword.

I encourage you to seek to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Not only will you make an indelible difference in the lives of others, but your life will be positively impacted as well. If you adopt this outlook and apply these principles, I firmly believe that when you look back, you will be astounded by your personal growth, will have gained greater respect and increased your reputation as an effective leader, and will be more prepared to take on even greater challenges in the future.