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NEWS | Dec. 5, 2007

Reflections on Leadership

By Lt. Col. William Anderson 15th Airlift Squadron commander

In light of the impending retirement of our First Sergeant, Master Sgt. Brent Freeman, and his tremendous career and character, I asked him to share his thoughts for the Airlift Dispatch.

As my time in the Air Force comes to a close, I have thought a lot about my military experiences and the leadership qualities I have acquired throughout my career. Some I learned through formal training, but most I learned from my previous supervisors. Most of my supervisors had a positive influence on me, but the ones that had a negative influence are the ones I learned the most from. They taught me about the kind of supervisor I didn't want to become.

The most important quality to me is integrity; integrity means alignment of words and actions with inner values. It means sticking to values even when an alternative path may be easier or more advantageous. A leader with integrity can be trusted and will be admired for sticking to strong values. They are powerful models for people to copy, thus building an entire organization with strong, effective cultural values.

Dedication is another quality a good leader should possess. Dedication means spending whatever time and energy on a task is needed to get the job done, rather than giving it whatever time you have available. The work of most leadership positions is not something to do 'if time permits.' It means giving your whole self to the task, dedicating yourself to success and leading others with you.

Another key quality is humility. Humility is the opposite of arrogance and narcissism. It means recognizing that you are not inherently superior to others. My first squadron superintendent could have used more humility. He truly believed he was better than anyone with fewer stripes than him. His first words to me were, "You know I don't like Airmen don't you, Freeman?" Those words stuck with me, and I made sure I never treated Airmen junior in grade to me like I was better than them. I treat each and every one with respect and demand nothing less from them.

Openness is an important skill to develop. Open leaders listen to their people without trying to shut them down. Openness also treats other ideas as potentially better than one's own. My last job involved a lot of unconventional troubleshooting due to the age and equipment shortages. My supervisor would gather all of us together and solicit ideas. He would listen to all ideas and encourage us to try some of them. He would offer his thoughts when he saw we were stuck. That taught me a great deal about being a leader. If you always tell your people what needs to be done, you are not allowing them to develop and build confidence.

These qualities are ones I learned throughout my career and they have served me well. I will take them with me as I transition into life after the military. Again, integrity is the most important. When you're in the business of saving lives and delivering freedom, taking the easy road is not an option. Thank you all for what you do for our country.