Leadership... Are You Ready?

  • Published
  • By Capt. Clarence Anderson III
  • Commander, 42nd Logistics Readiness Flight
To most, only 8.5 years of service in the Air Force is not a long time. You certainly aren't retirement eligible. However I have encountered many different situations both personally and professionally that have molded me into leadership. I have experienced fatherhood, divorce, numerous deployments and even death, all of which consciously or unconsciously have postured me into leadership. 

I have also had the privilege of not having the stick because followership is just as important as leadership, as it teaches patience and humility -- two direly needed characteristics to have as a leader. Followership provides an opportunity to sit in the back seat and observe your boss while he or she is tested and challenged to bear witness on how they deal with success and in most cases adversity. 

My experiences have taught me three simple things about leadership I am willing to share. 

My first simple lesson I have on leadership, and contrary to popular belief, is there are no "Born Leaders." Leadership is a learned behavior. I know this is contradictory to most OPR/EPR bullets, but none of us were born knowing exactly what to do at the exact time without pulling from some past experience. 

Yes some of us respond better than others when placed in the same or similar environments, primarily due to our past experiences and our respective environments. Remember all of us are just sum totals of our life's experiences. The best leaders and mentors I have had were the best teachers and the less effective leaders weren't the best teachers. If you want leaders for tomorrow's Air Force, you must teach and challenge them. 

The second simple thing I learned on leadership is good leaders are comfortable being uncomfortable. They have realized as long as they stay within their comfort zones they will never grow and affect those around them. Were they intimidated about the challenges awaiting them? Maybe? Were they ever uncertain they were the right person for the job? Probably? But they looked at the obstacles before them and were confident telling themselves as so many before them, "If not me, then who; if not now, then when?" 

And last, but certainly not least, the most valuable lesson I learned on leadership is to ALWAYS recognize where your real strength comes from. Many leaders both old and new have experienced situations so grim that had it not been for Divine Intervention, their stories would have ended so differently. I am not preaching to anyone but you can research and find countless examples both in the military and civilian realms where those leaders had an "outside" presence leading and protecting them. 

Some unexplained force that will help guide along the way. From Capt. Richard Phillips's rescue from Somali pirates to U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger's 'Miracle Landing' on the Hudson, makes you wonder if there is some unexplained force calming these leaders during their most uncomfortable moments. But what do I know? I'm nowhere close to retirement with only 8.5 years of service?