July Chief's Perspective

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robert Thibault from the 169th Maintenance Group at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, July 12, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder)

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robert Thibault from the 169th Maintenance Group at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, July 12, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

Potential

In my last two articles we have explored Leadership Qualities and the Keys to Leadership and I stated that cultivating exemplary leadership qualities was a journey. Today I would like to continue that journey with us exploring what I believe are some misconceptions of potential.

Here’s the thing – we all have potential, maybe some more than others, but we all have it. Potential is easy to recognize, but not so easy to realize. Most of us intrinsically recognize the gift of potential, but many simply choose to do nothing about it, and sadly, it’s the rare few who will maximize their potential. The problem with potential is society has deemed it to be an interchangeable commodity.” -Mike Myatt

We are all fed a steady diet of potential from the moment we are born. Parents, teachers, coaches, and yes your senior noncommissioned officers and noncommissioned officers all contribute to the problem by overrating potential as a predictor of future performance. Potential affords no guarantee of outcome; it merely offers hope. While hope can clearly serve as an inspiration, it can also quite easily become a delusion. SNCOs and NCOs would be well advised to place less stock in potential and focus their attention on effort and outcome. We must stop looking for leaders and recognize the leadership skills of those who exhibit more than just potential. You see good leaders don’t promote people hoping they’ll perform – they promote people after they perform. Ability and aptitude are only gifts if understood and used. The truth is you’re not standing out because of your potential, you’re standing out because of your pursuit of your potential, and you will stand out even more when you achieve your potential. Don’t tell others how gifted you are, but provide them with evidence you know how to use your gift- show them- as actions speak much louder than words.

Smart SNCOs and NCOs are much more interested in high character, high achievement, high engagement, and high performance than high potential as we should always reward performance not potential. Where people get confused is potential has little to do with success. In fact, many studies have been done which show little correlation between potential and actual attained success. What the studies do show is a high correlation between work ethic, performance and success. Realizing potential takes focus, determination, and dedication, hard work and drive. As I look back over my career I have worked with some of the most talented officers and SNCOs in the Air National Guard, it was/is their drive, not their potential, which had the greatest impact on their success. Potential is unrealized attainment, nothing more and nothing less. The key to converting potential into attainment is commitment. So my questions to you are: are you committed? Are you committed to put in the energy and effort necessary to realize your potential?  It’s much easier to talk about your potential than it is to realize it, but then again, outstanding achievement has never been easy.