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NEWS | April 17, 2009

Leadership with "Purity of Purpose"

By Maj. Paul Filcek Presidential Logistics Squadron commander

I have a theory about cats that I like to relay to all of my young officer friends and senior NCOs: Basically, there are three kinds of cats. First, are the cats that never catch mice. Second, are the cats that do catch mice, but they make sure master knows every time they do, eagerly bringing their prize latched in their jaws even to the dinner table. The third type of cat is never seen with a mouse. These cats eat their mice for lunch, and the master never sees a mouse in the house ... and pays less for cat food!

What is this all about? It's about leadership. Think of leaders as cats. Think of the people who lead you and the leaders you are developing as cats. Which type of cat do you work for? Which type are you raising?

It all comes down to "Purity of Purpose," or POP. We are all leaders in today's Air Force, from the two-striper aerial port squadron pro working in the summer heat, to the master sergeant facility manager, to the wing commanders. We are all leaders, and we are all much better when we internalize a purity of purpose in all we do.

You've likely heard the phrase "pass someone else the credit, but accept the blame." What you may not understand is that all good leadership begins there! Once you fully accept the path that you will sacrifice attention and credit and will instead elevate all those around you, you will see it all eventually coming back to you ten-fold. But what's funny about that is that it won't be important to you anymore - the attention and credit, I mean. Trust me. If you work as hard as you're capable of at accomplishing your mission, but spend your energies ensuring others get rewarded, you will eventually reap benefits you never dreamed of. You'll get recognition, good performance reports and outstanding mission accomplishment for your unit.

Have purity of purpose in what you do. Be the third type of cat, but take it to a new level. Catch your mice and share the meals with other cats. Let the master see a mouse in another cat's mouth. It doesn't matter, not in the long run, and leadership is nothing if not for the long run.

This "purity of purpose" is not just about sharing credit and taking blame; it just starts there. Recognize that if you have purity of purpose in everything you do, in every decision you make, those actions and decisions will begin to reap immeasurable successes. Analyze the situation, collect as much data as possible given the time, then act or decide to the very best of your abilities but also with the very best of intentions. Why are you deciding that? It needs to be because it is the right thing to do, period. I know, "right" is a relative term sometimes. That's where purity of purpose wins the day. Don't decide based on who might be angry or what it might gain for you. Your decision should be based on what's best for the mission or situation, regardless of what it might cost you or gain you in the short term.

If you continually practice purity of purpose, or leadership with POP, you will quickly find that your own self interests never enter your mind when making the tough calls. That's when you will be the third type of cat.