My observations on leadership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Karl R. Ohrn
  • 319th Medical Group
If you Google "Leadership Styles," you will get about 1.4 million responses. If you search for books on the subject of leadership, you get over 67,000 possibilities. It seems that everyone has an opinion on the subject of leadership. With so many options available, why would anyone be interested in my leadership perspective? For one reason, it's free. For another, as you probably already know, every chief has an opinion and most are willing to share theirs. I'd like to share a few observations about leadership that I've learned over the years.

Observation number one: Leadership is an art, not a science. Don't think you can become a good leader by reading the latest best-seller on leadership, completing a popular course, or applying just the right formula. Don't get me wrong, education is certainly an important factor to becoming an effective leader, but it's not the only part. There is no substitute for experience. After all, knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. Combine the knowledge you have gained from studying leadership with good judgment learned through practical application. I've been practicing leadership for about 28 years. Someday, hopefully, I will experience more leadership successes than failures. Actor Mickey Rooney said, "You always pass failure on the way to success." Think about it--even medical doctors call what they do "practice."

Observation number two: Good leaders recognize that everyone has an opinion and the other guy's opinion may be more effective than theirs. What I'm referring to here is "perspective." Individuals have different perspectives based on their experiences. Leaders at all levels should take advantage of this diversity of thought and like an orchestra conductor, blend different perspectives to achieve sound reasoning (no pun intended). Be receptive to the ideas and opinions of others. One final note on perspective: don't let all those perspectives prevent you from being able to make a decision. That brings me to observation number three.

Good leaders are decisive. No one likes an indecisive leader. It's far better to make a decision and be wrong than to make no decision at all. Don't be the man who says, "I used to be indecisive; now I'm not so sure." Take time to consider your options and then act. If things go well, you'll be a hero; if things go badly, beg forgiveness and chalk it up to experience. General George S. Patton said, "A good plan...executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week."

Finally, good leaders love people. That's right; I've used the "L" word. You don't have to like people, you have to love people. What I'm referring to is a brotherly kind of love or "agape" love; a genuine concern for other humans. Show your love in your actions. That might include checking on a family while the military member is deployed, or delivering a verbal reprimand if the situation calls for it (otherwise known as a butt-chewing). Remember, it's never about you; it's always about them. This is what taking care of Airmen is all about.