The basics of good leadership

  • Published
  • By Col. Jane Denton
  • 319th Medical Group commander
Throughout my Air Force career, I have had the opportunity to work with many Airmen, officers and enlisted, who exhibited outstanding leadership capabilities. There is an abundance of military literature that discusses what qualities make a good leader. I believe that before you can develop good leadership qualities, you have to master being a good follower. When I was a young major, one of my long-term mentors told me that you will always learn valuable lessons from your leadership and to always remember that sometimes it is what NOT to do.

Years ago, I was stationed as an instructor at the medical training schoolhouse as Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. There were several field grade officers who took turns briefing each new class at the Airmen Leadership School on the tenets of good followership. Now, years later, I am convinced that it was one of the most important briefings these brand new Airmen received. One might think these simple rules to live by are too basic, but there are those who go through an entire career and never truly appreciate them.

I share them now with you.

As a member of the military, you are part of a team and everything you do should be about the good of the team. It should never just be about what is good for you or your career, or what you want. The good of the organization always takes precedence.

Change is a way of life in the military. You don't have to like it, but when it is inevitable, it will be less painful for you and your teammates if you embrace it. And no matter how big or small the job is, do it to the utmost of your ability and with a good attitude. As my parents always told me, if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right, and your fellow Airmen will certainly notice how you handled the situation.

It is certainly okay to have a different opinion than your supervisor; however it is not okay to undermine good order and discipline by letting everyone know you disagree. It is acceptable to disagree with the boss behind closed doors, but one must always remember that when you leave that office, it is the boss's way, whether you brought him/her around to your way of thinking or not. Your job is not just to accept it, but openly support it, representing a united front, with a smile on your face to generate enthusiasm in those you supervise. Generally, your leadership got the job because they are known for their leadership abilities and making good decisions. Trust them to lead.

Always treat people with respect. The "Do unto others" rule applies at all times. You will find that most people respond to even difficult situations more easily when treated with respect. And always be honest. It truly is always the best policy. Also, because the truth can hurt, you must often times temper it with compassion. That includes being honest with yourself and introspection can be difficult. When you make a mistake, say so, then pick yourself up, and move on, but don't forget the lessons you learned or you may find yourself repeating those mistakes.

Yes, these rules seem simple enough; however, applying them every day is not as easy as it sounds. But believe me when I tell you that the effort is well worth it.