TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – I’ve had the pleasure to serve in our great Air Force for nearly 28 years. Most of my career has been in aircraft maintenance with a special duty tour as an enlisted recruiter. As I look back at the many lessons I learned, I rarely recognized them as learning moments at the time, but they’ve shaped me to be the Airman I am today.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve with some great leaders who’ve pushed me beyond my comfort level. In hindsight, I realize that it was usually the informal leaders that taught me the most. The common theme I’ve noticed in the leaders who’ve guided me is their understanding that leadership is an A.R.T. Most of us have heard at least once that leadership is a skill that most of us are not born with. My take is that leadership is a mindset; focused on attitude, relationships and tenacity.
Attitude: First, we need to always project a positive attitude—it’s infectious. Positive attitudes motivate a team and can greatly influence situational outcomes. Our professional and personal challenges, no matter how big or small, are merely obstacles we must navigate. Sometimes it’s the attitude of those around us that enables us to refocus and overcome challenges, or just give us the strength to put our heads down and muscle through.
Relationships: Professional relationships are also a crucial component to leadership. Relationships make it easier for us to bypass many of the formalities of team-building and get right to the task at hand. Relationships are foundational to leadership. The more we know and understand about our teammate’s on-duty and off-duty, the better connected we are and can move swiftly toward mission success. This isn’t a plug for professional organizations, but the connections we make only increase our capabilities. Put yourself in a situation where an Airman or peer is in need, but the problem can only be resolved with help from outside your organization. It’s the professional relationships built throughout the wing that enable us to effectively reach out to others for help. If our only recourse is to reference an Air Force Instruction, our ability to “quickly” resolve an issue could soon come to a halt. I can recall dozens of situations where my first response to a problem was “I don’t know, but I know someone who does.”
Tenacity: The third prominent attribute of a strong leader is tenacity, not in the sense of stubbornness, but in persistence. Tenacious people don’t give up easily, they march forward with a purpose and have a selfless desire to see projects through to the end. It’s professional persistence that keeps the mission on-track, even when the best laid plan seems to be unraveling right before our eyes.
Over the years, I’ve learned time and time again that we all benefit when we harness the A.R.T of leadership. Keep a positive attitude and continue to foster professional relationships within and outside of your organization, and don’t be hesitant to approach every challenge with professional tenacity.