Leadership Dynamics

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- At some point in our lives we have known or learned about someone whom we would consider to be a great leader. There was something in this individual that made them stand out as a leader. Early in our careers the seed of leadership is planted with the intent of growing us into an effective leader. Although we are taught about leadership early in our careers, we each have our own ideas and criteria we feel create a good and effective leader.

One question you should ask yourself as a leader, or even a potential leader, is "How do I fit into that criteria?" In Airman Leadership School, our young Airmen are taught different traits you should find in an effective leader. Of course, as in most Air Force terms, there is an acronym to help you remember these traits, such as SLICED (Selflessness, Loyalty, Integrity, Commitment, Energy, and Decisiveness).

Selflessness is a direct reflection of our core value "Service Before Self." Some people have a hard time with this trait. As a leader it is extremely important to remember that it is not about you. You have to first take a look at what is best for the mission and what is best for the people, even if this sometimes means swallowing your pride. However, there may be times in which you have to take your life into your own hands but not at the expense of others.

The second leadership trait is loyalty. Make sure your loyalty is trilateral; be loyal to your leaders, your subordinates, as well as the co-workers on the same plane as you. Stay true to your own leadership and stand behind their decisions even if you may not agree. There is a time and place to challenge leadership if you do not agree with them; that time is not when carrying out a mission.

Stay true to your subordinates and stand up for them, support them, and keep them informed, and of course do not forget your co-workers and fellow Airmen. We are all here for the same purpose and carry out the same mission. Take care of each other and stay true to each other - "One Team, One Fight".

Integrity is one of the most important trait as well as a core value that should be incorporated into everything they do. You cannot be counted on as a leader if you cannot be trusted. Your subordinates are going to emulate your actions, and if you do not have integrity, how do you think your airmen will act? Former Sen. Alan Simpson once said, "If you have integrity, that's all that matters. If you don't have integrity, that's all that matters." What kind of leadership example are you going to be?

The next trait is commitment. Be dedicated to what you do and see the job through. You are leading by example, so make sure that you are thorough in your actions and stand strong. If you do, then chances are your subordinates will follow suit. Competence can also fit here. Learn your job; if you are new at it and do not know much about your duties, find someone who does and soak up all the knowledge you can. Eventually your subordinates are going to come to you and will expect you to know the answers.

Now we move on to energy. Supervisors - leaders - put a smile on your face and get excited about what you do. That does not mean you need to bounce around your office like a mad man (however, it may sometimes take that). It means stay upbeat and at the least maintain a positive attitude. If you do not have energy, then your Airmen will not. And if you do not have that energy and your Airman does, then they probably will not have it for long. Let our future know why their jobs are so vital to our Air Force and our country.

Last but not least we have decisiveness. Leaders, make a decision! It may not always be the right or best decision. Some of the hardest lessons learned, and almost impossible to forget, are those made by making a wrong decision. If you make a wrong decision, fix it. Keep in mind, "fix it" does not mean cover it up. One of the principles under Integrity first is accountability. If you make a wrong decision, own up and fix the problem with the right decision.

On top of these six traits, an effective leader should also be genuine and encouraging. Mean and live what you say and what you preach to your fellow Airmen. Be an encouragement to them and teach them to encourage others. We are all on the same team, and to be an effective Air Force we need effective leaders. This should start with you, regardless of if you are in a leadership position or not.

Knowing what traits or criteria we may have that make up a leader is the first step to effective leadership. However, knowledge in itself does not lead you to greatness. What makes a great leader is one who takes these traits and the knowledge and applies it to their daily lives. So how effective of a leader are you?