Leadership according to mom and dad

  • Published
  • By Maj. Lamont Morrow
  • 71 CS
There's no question that leadership is in high demand.

Given the political rhetoric calling for leadership in Congress, and commanders at various levels being relieved of command for loss of confidence, it's no wonder the topic continues to surface almost daily.

One can make the case that leaders are born, but one can equally argue that leaders are made. Either way, the important question is why is leadership so important? Leadership is important because it's the key to success or failure.

Looking back, my parents taught me all I needed to know about leadership. No, they didn't put me in leadership camps, nor did they sit me in a classroom environment to discuss great leaders and their qualities. But what they taught me proved invaluable in life.

My mother always said, "Treat others how you want to be treated."

This is mutual respect. How many times have you witnessed a rude customer or heard a news story on bullying in schools? Incompetence is inexcusable, but respecting the person on the other end may determine whether the final outcome is a positive or negative one.

My mother would say, "You don't know what the other person is going through. Maybe they had a recent death in the family. Maybe they're new to the job. Maybe they were told they'll have to take a pay cut to remain on the job."

Her point was simple -- you'll never know the extenuating circumstances surrounding "why" the person isn't helpful. But opening with a hello, smiling and being kind could make your exchange better. You catch more bees with honey.

My parents also told me, "Your name and your word mean something. Your actions will tell people what they mean."

Your name is an identifier. It tells people who you are, but your actions will instantaneously signal how someone should assess your integrity, trustworthiness and reliability.

My dad summed up the inherent responsibility of protecting your name with just a few words. "Trust is hard to earn, but easy to lose. If you cut corners, if you lie, steal or cheat when you believe no one's watching, then you will show people who you really are."

Retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Robert Gaylor says the same thing when he presents his "mailbox" speech. When he retired, he was often seen in his front yard doing yard work. A neighbor stopped and asked why he was so passionate about maintaining his yard. The chief replied, "Because my name is on the mailbox." Your actions directly reflect the pride, value and respect you have for your name.

Finally, my dad, a former Army sergeant, would say, "Lead, follow or get out of the way." His statement identifies the multiple roles one could play, as a leader, follower or obstacle.

I heard a similar quote from an old boss. "In the absence of leadership... lead."

Leadership exists at all levels. It's not a rank and it's not a position. I've seen an E-4 display more leadership than a senior NCO and a junior officer display more leadership than a field grade officer.

Some are leaders by position, but they may lack confidence or competence. They may abdicate their responsibilities as a leader. While it's not OK, it happens.

There are many factors that determine whether or not you will be an effective leader; the situation, the folks above you and the folks below you. But one factor remains constant -- you. There's no shortage of leadership opportunities, so step up and lead.

The 71st Flying Training Wing's vision is "The Air Force's premier training wing... empowering Airmen to conquer our nation's challenges." Many feel the solution to our nation's challenges, whether budgets or bullying in schools, is leadership.

My parents taught me to treat people with respect, to protect my name and to lead, follow or get out of the way. Their intension was not to develop leadership but to make me a better person.

However, these principles speak to leadership and can be a powerful force when meeting our nation's challenges.