Are you ready to lead?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jerry Bennett
  • 344th Air Refueling Squadron
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. — The path to command is a journey that can take more than a decade for some, but no matter how long your path is, your chance to lead might begin today. Are you ready to lead?

While there are countless books, articles and leadership seminars to help guide you to becoming a successful leader, I would like to suggest a few lines of effort to direct your focus. I've placed these in order of what I believe to be important. Add, subtract and reorder as you see fit, but do so after reflecting on your own personal strengths and weaknesses.

1. Read

I don’t doubt original thoughts about leadership exist, but leadership can be learned from others’ written examples.

Just as you prepared for high school or college classes, lessons on leadership are at your fingertips. Consider reading on leadership your weekly homework.

If you are looking for a good place to begin, you could start with the Chief of Staff Reading List, or just go ask your commander what he or she is reading.

2. Communicate

Practice your verbal and written skills. If you cannot communicate up and down the leadership chain, you will not be successful as a leader.

Your job is to take care of your Airmen, and this is simply not possible if you cannot communicate. We have all witnessed the unprepared speaker, the incomprehensible email and, even worse, the leader who fails to execute a critical task because they don’t have the skills to communicate.

Look for opportunities to write and speak. Take classes to sharpen your skills and watch and learn from others.

3. Act

Act, but don’t forget that great leaders are also great followers. Learn from good and bad examples, and then carpe diem (seize the day). If you have been selected to lead, you are expected to lead.

Use the tools you have learned and move out. If you are not empowered to execute, ask for it from your leadership team. I need you to be able to make the decisions that are in your span of control. If the decision is not yours to make, forward the decision up the chain of command with a recommendation.

4. Trust

The people around you are really smart. Trust them to accomplish the mission. You might have a way, but someone else’s way might work too. Build trust by letting others perform and lead.

Do not be afraid to loosen the reigns. Micromanagement kills trust and degrades the mission. There is a time and place where you will need to steer your team, but use it cautiously, because too much will destroy initiative and performance. You need your team performing on all cylinders for the mission to succeed.

Great leaders help those around them succeed. Choose a path that develops your skills to be a successful leader. Reading, communicating, acting and trusting are just a few of the many lines of effort to guide you on your journey.