TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – In the last 16 years of my career, I came to understand there is no one simple way to lead. I have been blessed to have had situations in my life that have led me to come up with my own version of how to be a better leader. What I am about to share may or may not work for you, but hopefully, you can gain an insight into who I am and how I lead.
First and foremost, take care of yourself in all pillars of life (physically, spiritually, mentally and socially). This may sound a little selfish, but think about it; when a person is not at 100 percent in their own pillars of life, they are not capable of giving 100 percent to others around them. When you take care of yourself and meet your needs, you are more qualified and postured to take care of those who need you.
Secondly, take care of others. This is where we get into servant leadership and the responsibility to take care of those who are entrusted to our care. Our job as senior leaders is to take care of our Airmen, to instill that desire in them to belong to something greater than themselves and, ultimately, train them to replace us.
Thirdly, take risks. The Air Force didn’t become the best Air Force the world has ever known without taking risks. We took a risk in 1947 and we continue to take risks to meet the demands of the ever-changing world. Innovation is something we continue to pursue and that doesn’t happen without taking risks. When you take risks, you get out of your comfort zone, and that’s when real growth begins. If you are always comfortable with what you are doing, then are you really growing? I took a risk in 2013 when I volunteered to leave my comfortable flying job to become a military training instructor. To this day, that was the best decision I ever made. The amount of growth I experienced, along with the knowledge and support system I gained is invaluable.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to fail. We are not perfect and we will make mistakes. You may hear people say, “If you are going to fail, fail forward.” That couldn’t be more accurate. There is not enough space in this article to tell you about all my failures. Those who say they haven’t failed have probably never taken risks or left their comfort zone. At the end of the day, don’t make failure an option, but don’t be afraid of it when it shows up at your front door.
I hope that the next few years of my career will be as great as the last 16 and I look forward to the challenges the future will bring. I also hope that what I have shared will help you develop your leadership process.