Leadership is like keeping a promise

Chief Master Sgt. Reny Nunag, official photo, U.S. Air Force

Chief Master Sgt. Reny Nunag, official photo, U.S. Air Force

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – What an honor it is to serve in today’s Air Force.  While writing does not always come easily for me, when given the opportunity, you can bet I’ll chomp at the bit. 

I would like to take a moment to share my recipe for success, a concept I passed along to our future leaders at Airmen Leadership School.  It basically comes down to one word: Promise. 

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the definition of promise is, “A declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified.” To me, a promise is a vow that should not be broken or taken lightly. To understand the word promise in terms of Air Force jargon, let’s break it down letter by letter. 

The first letter is P, which stands for people. To be an effective leader or supervisor, you need to know your people.  You’re not here to be their friend. You are here to take care of them whether you are celebrating in their successes or administering discipline.

Both are a form of taking care of your people.  As a young supervisor, I frequented the dormitories to see how my Airmen lived and invited them to my home on special occasions and holidays. Out of the blue, I would have lunch with them at the dining facility. I made sure they could call on me if they got into a bind.

When they did something uncharacteristic of a good Airman, I dealt with it right away and didn’t dwell on it. This mentality of taking care of your people never escaped me as a young supervisor and now, as a chief master sergeant, I still run through the same process. 

Next is the letter R, which stands for respect. I truly believe respect goes both ways.  I’m not perfect and make mistakes. I’ve learned that owning our mistakes can help us gain respect. 

Earning your Airmen’s respect can be as simple as doing activities with them or just being available.  I can tell you when I was a senior airman working a headquarters job, I had a boss who cared about my well-being. Something he said that sticks with me to this day was, “I will never have you do anything that I would not do myself.” By expressing those exact words he earned instant credibility and respect. 

To this day, I try to emulate his leadership style. Because he could also count on me, we had a mutual respect for each other. Remember, respect is earned not bought or taken.

The next letter, O, is for opportunity. The Air Force affords us many opportunities. You just have to capitalize on them.

Nothing in life is free. You have to work hard for what you want. Opportunities come in different forms and times in our lives, you just have to identify which opportunities are for you and know that it may take you out of your comfort zone.

That being said, are you willing to take a chance, get out of your comfort zone and do things you always wanted to do? Would you be willing to embrace a developmental special duty, such as military training leader, an Airman Leadership School instructor or a first sergeant?  Seize opportunities and don’t hold yourself back, you never know what amazing things you can achieve.

Next is the letter M, which stands for mission. Statistics tell us less than 1 percent of Americans take the oath of enlistment to serve our nation. Our very existence in the Air Force relies on how we can effectively accomplish the mission.

In order to accomplish the mission, we need to focus on our readiness. Are you ready to defend our country? Without ready, willing and able Airmen to perform their duties, there is no mission success. Our job as leaders is to make sure our Airmen are well-trained and well-equipped, ready to respond to the call. Be ready yourself and expect your Airmen to be mission ready. That’s the only way we can accomplish the mission.

The last three letters in promise are I – S – E, which simply stand for: Integrity, service and excellence.  In anything we do, any decision we make, we should use the Air Force’s core values as our guiding light. 

This notion will keep us grounded. If we follow our core values, we will make sound and ethical decisions every time, decisions that will impact our Airmen and the Air Force.  So, do your best to live by our core values every day, in everything you do.

So, are you a leader that can keep a simple promise?  Get to know your people, earn their respect and jump on opportunities when they present themselves to accomplish the mission, while incorporating our core values of integrity, service and excellence to guide you.  If you can say “Yes,” I believe you’ll see many successes in your career and throughout our Air Force.