Chief's View: Five behaviors critical to becoming a successful, effective leader

Chief Master Sgt. Jackson A. Winsett

Chief Master Sgt. Jackson A. Winsett

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Have you ever wondered what the future holds? If it sounds too far off for you to be concerned about, take a look around your work area, squadron, wing, numbered air force and command. You’ll see a lot of senior enlisted personnel preparing to leave the Air Force Reserve.
You may say, “Who cares?” People leaving will improve my possibilities for advancement and promotion. That’s true; however, these Reservists will take with them a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge, some of that gained in combat. My question to you is, are you ready for the next step? If so, I’d like to discuss five behaviors that are critical to being a successful and effective leader.

A Take-Charge Attitude: The first leadership behavior is having a “take-charge” attitude. Essentially, this means, as leaders, we have the moral obligation to accept the authority and responsibility to command, whether it’s assigned or unassigned. When you accept the stripe that promotes you to NCO status, you are at the same time accepting the legal and moral responsibilities inherent in that position.

One of those responsibilities is leading others. Sometimes the responsibility is formally assigned; for example, you’re designated as the person in charge. In those situations, most of us are ready, willing and able to accept the responsibility confidently and enthusiastically.

At other times, we may be placed in a position of authority only by virtue of the fact that we are the highest-ranking member of a particular group. In these cases, the leadership role isn’t always easy or pleasant. Let’s face it, many times it’s easier to turn our heads the other way than it is to step up and take charge.

Risk Taking: All leaders must, from time to time, make decisions in the course of daily operations. Risk taking means we must sometimes make a decision under conditions where the probability of success is less than certain. One of the greatest challenges a leader faces is having the courage to take those risks, especially in those situations when it appears there may be an easier and safer way out.

Ensuring the Well-Being of Subordinates: This behavior is becoming an increasingly important factor in a leader’s ability to influence others. Long gone are the days when subordinates willingly and enthusiastically complete a task just because “you tell them to.”

Today’s Airmen are more educated and aggressive than their predecessors. They have different goals, hold different values and look for different things from life. As leaders we can ensure their well-being by showing genuine interest and concern and helping them satisfy their physical and emotional needs. This is an awesome task, as it implies that we must take the time to get to know our subordinates.

A Total Air Force Commitment: Hav-ing a goal is necessary for leadership to exist. Most of us tend to think of that goal in a short-term sense; that is, we equate it to the task or objective at hand. However, we must not sell ourselves or our subordinates short in believing in only tangible objectives.

Our ultimate goal — national security — is very much an intangible objective. Our ultimate reason for existence is to protect and defend our nation. Although accomplishing our particular tasks contributes towards that end, we must be totally committed to the Air Force mission.

If we as leaders can’t show a total commitment to a belief in all we do, we can’t expect subordinates to share our beliefs.

Leadership Role Model: By virtue of your rank and position as a leader, you are a role model. Whether you realize it or not, others are continually observing and imitating your behavior.

Acting as a leadership role model requires you to consciously and continually set a positive example. This behavior not only precludes the chance that others will learn less than desirable tendencies, but it also allows you to act as a mentor within your work group. In addition to observing and imitating your behavior, your subordinates will make the conscious decision to emulate you.

You might be asking yourself, “Why should I be concerned about leadership? It will be a long time before I’ll ever be in a leadership position!” That may or may not be true. But the bottom line is if you want to be a good leader tomorrow, you must begin today!