F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. —
I am coming up on two and a half years in the military. I have achieved many things in this short amount of time but have yet to supervise my own troops, something I am really looking forward to. When asked to write a commentary about leadership, I geared my thinking towards leadership qualities I have seen or learned rather than skills I have had to implement with a troop.
After drafting an outline, I discovered I knew more about leadership than I realized. Observing my own supervisor, corresponding with my peers, and focusing on my own organization and professional habits have shaped me into an Airman willing and able to put her leadership abilities to the test.
So here are a few things I have learned.
Little things matter
My tech school was comprised of all of the military branches. I remember walking to class every morning and seeing a specific female Marine pass me by with her coffee, heading to her own classroom. Every morning her hair was pulled back in a tight, neat bun. Not a single hair was ever out of place.
I was impressed by how consistent she was at having hair that was perfectly in regs, because let’s be honest, it’s not always an easy feat.
I easily remember how clean and professional she looked, but what’s even easier to remember are individuals who are the exact opposite.
Messy hair, an unshaven face or a wrinkly uniform. Things like these make an impression. If I had to choose between the person with a coffee stain on their uniform and the female Marine who always looked well put together to lead a team, I would without a doubt choose the latter. If I was looking for a role model, she would be my go to.
I guess what I am getting at is the little things matter. First impressions, showing up on time and paying attention during meetings. It’s much easier to notice and remember the faulty…and no one wants a faulty leader.
Writing is not my forte…but wow is it important. I have seen wonderous things happen as a result of a well-written package. Of course, the work needs to be done to build packages, but the way they are written are just as important.
Every young Airman has, or should have, the help of their supervisor when writing their first few packages. In fact, my supervisor wrote my first few for me, showed me how she did it and gave me important notes on key elements a package should have. Of course, I worked hard to build packages for various awards but I don’t think I would have gotten nearly as far if my bullets weren’t strong.
There will come a time when Airmen will need my help in writing their packages, and I refuse to be a supervisor whose Airman doesn’t excel due to my poor writing skills.
I also value writing to help keep me organized. I write down my weekly activities at the end of the week, and use those notes to write bullets or have record of my actions should I need them in the future. Writing helps me stay focused, creating lists keeps me productive during the day, and recording my activities provides clarity when it comes time to build packages.
An unorganized person will have trouble keeping their own professional life in order let-alone any Airmen they might be leading.
I think there are different aspects of communication that, when valued, can make someone a good leader. Getting to know the people you work with, keeping supervisors informed, and asking questions are all good habits to have in my opinion.
As an Airman, I feel appreciated when my leadership asks how my family is or congratulates me on an anniversary. I can tell they care, and honestly it makes me care more about them and for the work I need to do for them. I am eager to have troops of my own, so I can show that I care for them and hopefully make them feel like they are a valued member of the team.
I also notice different levels of trust and respect between supervisors and Airmen when a supervisor constantly has to keep track of what their Airman is doing. What I mean by that, is keeping my supervisor updated without her having to constantly ask about the status of my work builds confidence in our professional relationship. It’s a good habit to have as a leader because when your command knows that you are efficient in getting tasks done and managing Airmen, they will put more trust in you to do bigger and better things.
This type of communication needs to be very clear and purposeful. Assuming that my supervisor knows what I am doing all the time is a bad assumption to make. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that is has taken place.”
The last thing I want to point out is there is no possible way I can care for and lead others if I don’t care for myself.
Stress is always something I will have to deal with. I can either let it totally ruin my day and negatively affect the people around me, or I can be cognizant of it and manage it accordingly.
Nutrition and exercise are two of the biggest factors in my opinion that help to alleviate stress. Not only am I helping myself by staying active and healthy, but I am showing those around me how positive self-care can result in a good attitude and healthy mind-set.
I’ve also learned that positive self-talk is also a huge thing that shapes a person. What I mean by this is the way I react and internally talk and think to myself will ultimately affect the rest of my day or week.
Take this commentary for example. This assignment fell a bit outside of my comfort zone. Thinking to myself “this is going to be hard,” will subconsciously create more obstacles for me than thinking, “this challenge will teach me something, and I’m going to stay open-minded about it.”
There will always be opportunities (and sometimes required actions) that fall outside of my comfort zone. Embracing it and treating my body and mind kindly will undoubtedly help me grow and become and great leader and peer.
I won’t pretend to know everything there is to know about being a good leader. I can only say with certainty that I have always been open-minded when it comes to learning and will continue to keep an open-mind when I have troops of my own.
I will strive to set the best example for my peers and younger Airmen. I will always make it a priority to show up when expected and look sharp while on and off the job.
I will write down everything, to help keep myself organized and to keep track of what my Airmen are doing.
I will communicate with my supervisors and my troops, clearly telling them what is expected and keeping the correct individuals up to speed with my tasks.
I will take care of myself, and make sure my mind and body are ready to do my job well and encourage troops to do the same.
It’s really not too much work when you think about it. Caring is the most important part. Caring about the job and the people you supervise will undoubtedly make you a better leader in the long run.