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NEWS | Feb. 11, 2016

Lead from where you sit

By TSgt David Hardy Airman Leadership School

I often hear people say and, at times have thought myself, "I am not a leader, I just do X." Hogwash! Leadership is not a "title-ship"; it is a mindset. There is a great difference between holding a position of leadership and being an effective leader from where you sit. I believe if you ever expect to hold a position of leadership, you must exert leadership within your current respective sphere of influence.

Leading is a people-centric concept. If you are someone who works with people, you are someone who has the opportunity to lead. You must understand your importance within your unit. As an Airman who turns wrenches on the flight line, are you the Airman to whom other Airmen turn when something goes awry and a critical job needs to be done properly? If so, you are a leader because your actions influence others to trust your judgement and abilities. You are not simply a mechanic at the bottom of a recall roster.

When you lead, you unleash your potential. As the Airman mechanic who takes orders from a lead Technical Sergeant, are you thinking about how to improve a process? Voice your observations rather than keeping them tucked away until you, "Have enough rank to make a difference." Great ideas always rise to the top when given the chance. Missing such opportunities contributes to inefficiencies which the AF cannot afford in an environment where every moment counts. Most people want to be shown how something can be done better - be that person.

Just as you have unique gifts and abilities, so do others. Be the Airman who values others' strengths and encourages them to put them into practice. We are analogous to a body. Each body part has its function and, when a particular body part doesn't perform at its best, the body fails to achieve maximum performance. If someone is a logical whiz, run your ideas by them so they can turn doubles into grand slams. Maximize the talent pool around you so your organization is a trusted lighthouse when a storm arises.
Come to work each day with a purpose greater than just "doing your job." Show your supervisors you mean business. Take the Core Values seriously, even the minute details and seemingly mundane tasks. Look sharp in your uniform, ensure you are in the best physical shape and set the example for others to follow. Never compromise your integrity just to get something done quickly. If you aspire to one day run a large section, you must first prove that you can handle smaller responsibilities with care. Live the Profession of Arms book and Enlisted Force Structure.

You may need to create opportunities your position does not naturally offer. Understand your sphere of influence and don't waste your time worrying things over which you have no control. Ask your supervisor to help overcome any organizational barriers. If you work in a small section, you may not have the opportunity to lead larger projects. However; your supervisor can direct you to professional organizations that may provide those opportunities. You can trust that they will steer you toward tasks that will appropriately challenge and develop you.

Every Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force started off as an Airman. Each one of them actualized their potential rather than allowing it to lie dormant. None of them bought into the delusion of being just a cog in the system. You have unique strengths and abilities that are invaluable to your section. Put them to work and propel yourself to where you deserve to be and to where the Air Force needs you to be. Lead from where you sit rather than sitting around waiting for a chance to one day lead.