Leadership is an action verb

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Merritt
  • 71st Operations Support Squadron commander
I thought about writing a brilliant piece on leadership and pontificating to such a mesmerizing extent that you would likely have stopped reading after the first sentence. 

Are you still with me? I think we over-think leadership sometimes while trying to make it sound more sophisticated than it is or needs to be. There are lots of books, movies, techniques and principles on leadership. In my time in the Air Force, through four sets of professional military education, I've heard or seen a lot of them. 

You can use all sorts of input to help figure out what works best for you. But that's just it. You have to figure out what works best for you. 

You're not Abraham Lincoln, Billy Mitchell or Winston Churchill. You're you. Don't change that, but rather learn from other examples and figure out how they can best help you be a better leader. 

I'm a simple guy from Ohio and sometimes I hear something on leadership that makes me think, so I thought I'd share a few of the good ones I'd heard lately. 

At the squadron commander's course at Randolph AFB, Texas, back in April, the Air Education and Training Command's command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Robert Tappana shared an interesting statement he heard from a young captain while touring a base. 

When describing her job as a leader, the captain said she considered herself a crew chief for the human weapons system. Like Chief Tappana, I was struck by the comment. And the more I thought about it the more I liked it as a military description of how a leader takes care of their people. 

All systems must be fully mission capable for our Airmen to be mission effective. 

Focused mental and physical fitness, technical knowledge, education, opportunities for leadership growth and family support are all key components. 

Like an aircraft crew chief, we should feel 100 percent confident when we send an Airman out on the line that they're ready to go. As a leader, it's your responsibility to ensure your Airmen are ready. 

Never walk past a problem. I can't remember who I heard say this. I think it was a young Airman whose dad was a chief. Whoever said it had it right. If you see an issue, a problem or a challenge, do something about it. If you can't fix it yourself, then get help. Raise it up the chain and make it right. 

I know I certainly depend on my Ghostriders to help me ensure this gets done in our squadron. Don't assume squadron leadership knows about the issue and don't say, "Well, I told my supervisor before and nothing happened, so why bother." 

If it's not right, make it right. Fix it. Don't wait for someone else to do it. Don't talk around problems or justify inaction. The whole team is counting on you. 

Don't quit on your Airmen. I heard this one a while ago while deployed. As a leader, your Airmen are counting on you to give them the tools and knowledge they need to execute the mission. They're counting on you to be their crew chief and not walk past their problems. 

Life may be easy for you if you've got leadership and supervisors who are taking care of business. But don't give up if the going gets tough. If your supervisor micromanages you, don't micromanage your troops. If you're supervisor doesn't reward or praise you for your hard work, make sure you remind your Airmen how well they're doing. 

If you feel like you're the only one who cares, show your Airmen you do. You don't get formal feedback? Make sure you spend the time to tell your folks how they're doing. 

Set the example and never quit. Whether you lead two Airmen or 602, you owe them everything you've got to help them get the job done and to take care of them and their families. 

For those of you who made it to this point in the article, I'm sure none of this was earth shattering for you. But sometimes it's nice to hear something different. Maybe a few of you will sit and think about them, as I did, and figure out how they might apply to you personally. 

And after you've thought about that remember this. Leadership may be a noun in the dictionary but its root word is a verb. An action verb.