Being prepared to lead

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Robert Wheeler
  • 319th Mission Support Group
Have you ever wondered why one leader is more successful than another? Even when ability, training, and experience are similar, one leader will out shine the other but why?

I believe the difference is simple; it's their preparation. Well prepared leaders know where they are going before they start, are personally ready to lead, and can honestly evaluate their own performance.

First, if you are going to lead, you must know where you are going before you start. What does this mean? Simply put, it's your mission. As Airmen, we are all here to " and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic...," to "Fly, Fight and Win", and to make sure that we"...never leave and Airman behind...". We all recognize these. They are our shared missions; they motivate us and keep us focused.

In each work center, we have duties and responsibilities; these are our missions too. These are the things Airmen do in the dining facility, in the aircraft part store, on the flight line, in the clinic, in the radar approach control and the network control center. Every non-commissioned officer must know the mission of his or her work center and must make sure that every Airmen working with them do too. These missions become our common goal; they are the place you lead your Airmen to. You need to know what this is before you start, otherwise, you may end up wasting time and effort.

Next, you must be ready to lead before you actually are tasked to lead. Are you ready? Are you fully qualified and can you train your Airmen to do their jobs? Can you evaluate and correct their performance? Are you passing your physical fitness test? Are you ready to deploy? Are you volunteering? Is all of your professional military education completed? If not, are you actively working on it? Is your community college of the Air Force degree done? Is it tough to tell your Airmen to finish theirs when you haven't finished yours? Remember, if it's good for your Airmen, then you should already be done. With these take care of you can focus your time and energy on leading your Airmen.

Finally, I believe successful leaders take time to stop and honestly review what they have accomplished. I'm not saying you should ignore external feedback, but use your own honest review first. You need to be able to identify what you haven't done and what has not gone well. You need to become you own best critic. Learning and taking the time to critique yourself may be the hardest part of becoming a leader.

One simple way to start, is to turn around and see if anyone is following you? Are your Airmen trained, fit, educated, and involved? Do they know their mission, where they fit into it, and will they continue to work towards it even when you are not there? Your Airmen are you best "leadership barometer" and well prepared leaders use them. Remember, it's not up to your Airmen to follow you, it's up to you to lead. Their success is your success.

So that's it. Know your mission, prepare yourself to lead and be honest about your leadership performance. It's not as easy as it sounds, but it is simple. The sooner you get started, the better. With these three things conquered, you will truly be ready to learn to lead, and only experience can teach leadership.