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September Chaplain's Reflections

Portrait of Chaplain, Capt. Benjamin McEntire, with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Jan. 10, 2013.
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

Portrait of Chaplain, Capt. Benjamin McEntire, with the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Jan. 10, 2013. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- One of the traditions at the 169th Fighter Wing awards ceremonies is for those present to recite the Airman's Creed. Have you ever thought about the significance of some of the things we say about ourselves in that creed? One of the things that jumped out at me at the awards ceremony last month is that we all, regardless of rank, say we are leaders. I don't know about you, but there are times I wonder whether or not how I live shows that I'm a leader, much less a successful one. I believe that all of us should want to be the best leaders we can, but that raises a question: What does the life of a leader look like to those around them? There are many aspects of good leaders, but here are three traits of leadership I believe most of us can develop in our own lives no matter our rank or position.

To me, one of the big indications that someone's a leader is that they live a proactive life. A leader doesn't just wait and react to situations--they shape circumstances according to their plans. There are a couple of areas in life every Airman can start living proactively: money and time. Do you let circumstances and situations tell you where to spend your time and money, or do you live proactively by creating a plan for your money and time, a plan that accounts for unexpected situations that come up? If you take charge of your own resources and use them to create the circumstances you want, instead of waiting to react to whatever comes your way, you'll be exercising self-leadership.

Another hallmark of a good leader is that they set standards for themselves and are faithful to live them out. In the US Air Force, we are united in our commitment to living according to the standards of our Core Values: Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in All We Do. How does that work? With integrity, we commit ourselves to absolute honesty, faithfulness and truth in our dealings with others--and ourselves. (More people lie to themselves than you'd think!) We also seek to put others and our objectives ahead of our own personal interests, a standard that almost seems to be lost in a culture that seems to reward those who put themselves first. In all of that, we follow a standard of excellence, committing to do our best in everything we do. Imagine a leader who puts the welfare of their people and the success of the mission ahead of their own interests, who is honest and ethical in all of their dealings, who ensures that everything they do is done to the best of their ability and who calls on all of their people to live the same way. If we truly lived and led like that in our own lives, we would shine as leaders!

Lastly, good leaders are good learners--they are always looking to improve their wisdom, knowledge and competence. Some people believe that good leadership is instinctive, that one either has it or they don't. While it's true that some people have a more natural bent toward directing people to achieve a common mission, some of the greatest leaders used what they learned from years of mentoring and training to become successful leaders. Like an athlete, if a leader relies only on their natural abilities and doesn't try to develop and train themselves, they will not have the kind of leadership excellence they could have if they had tried to develop themselves. As you are developing in your life and career, work to improve your strengths and continue to educate yourself. Good leaders have competency because they have made the effort to improve themselves through training and education. Since we are all leaders, we need to do the same in our own lives.

If you are an American Airman, you have committed yourself to be a leader. Will you work to be the best leader you can be by taking the initiative, living your life with standards that move you to be the best person possible and continue to improve yourself in every area of your life? That kind of life isn't easy, but it's worth every bit effort!