Legacy of success

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Senior leaders must strive to leave a legacy of success through active and purposeful mentorship of subordinate officers, Senior NCOs, civilians, peers, and even superiors within their sphere of influence.

We must provide vision, direction, and guidance; espouse our core values, and deliver mentorship. Someone once said; "We stand on the backs of the great men and women who laid the foundation for what is today, the greatest air, space and cyberspace force on the globe." We must leave the Air Force in better hands and improved state than when we entered the service of our country. This is not a desire or a goal; it is an imperative.

Although many have done so in the past I wish to share my leadership philosophy on our first core value - Integrity First - part and partial of my own values long before I enlisted in 1990.

INTEGRITY
Previous assignments have given me access to hundreds of general officers and senior executives. I am proud to report that the Air Force does a very thorough job of vetting its senior leaders. Without exception, the top-tier leaders I met are focused, thoughtful, dedicated, self-made, disciplined, inspired, visionary, motivated, and a host of other positive adjectives that accurately describe them. Their words, backed by appropriate behavior, are in fact, their bond - impeccable integrity. I would emphasize that in our business, integrity is more important than a Fortune 500 company's bottom line because we serve a cause larger than any company.

Integrity means much more than mere truth-telling. It means providing honest, timely input even if unprompted and especially when you believe it may be contrary to what the boss wants to hear. It is my responsibility as a subordinate leader to ensure my chain of command has information needed to aid decision-making. I am not interested whether it will be well-received or whether it is heeded. I expect my subordinates to do likewise. Yes, tell me the truth and give me your perspective on a given issue, with the courage to offer honest, respectful dissention, but do so without prompting. Do not wait until I make the wrong decision only to tell me you would have done differently - after the fact! If you have knowledge that would help optimize my decision-making then stand by your conviction and share. At the very least I can factor it into my course of action analysis. At worst, you have done due diligence in your role as a dynamic subordinate.

I will often advise growing leaders to; lead with your head, tempered by your heart. By this I mean that it is important to take your feelings on a given subject into account, but never allow feelings to dictate behavior. Doing right is often hard work, which requires setting aside feelings, prejudices and the comfort of personal impulses, idiosyncrasies, and preferences. Integrity is the indispensable ingredient that prompts us to do right rather than resist, delay or ignore things we would rather not do. It compels us to coordinate actions and corroborate with others to solve complex problems in spite of personality conflicts, dislikes or disagreements.

Integrity helps us navigate through and around our own fallacies, egos and weaknesses as well as that of others. It keeps each of us responsible for executing our duties and keeping others accountable for executing theirs. It allows us to live in our own skins; to be honest and okay with saying; I don't know instead of pretending or making something up. Integrity pushes us to be open while inviting others to do likewise. It demands humility as we team with others towards a common goal. We are just with others because we have the self-respect and self-discipline to hold ourselves accountable. This is the genesis of the golden rule; treating others as you would be treated; and I would add, expecting of others what they expect of you and no less than what you expect of yourself. That is my leadership philosophy on our first core value.