The Silent Leader



Commentary by Capt. Denise T. Garcia
45th Medical Group Executive Officer and Physician Assistant


3/26/2013 - PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- From very early in my career, back when I was a young Airman, I searched out for opportunities to lead and mentor. I was put in charge of small projects commensurate with my rank, and progressively developed. I had supervisors who encouraged this desire and always set me up for success. However, I felt conflicted because on one hand I felt that high profile activities would be the only way I would get noticed by senior leadership, and therefore become successful in the Air Force, versus on the other hand I was never really one to be "up front and center" of everything.

After several years, I earned the opportunity to go to Airman Leadership School. On the night of the graduation, I was genuinely surprised that my classmates had voted me to receive the John L. Levitow Award. I wasn't the one volunteering for everything, nor was I the one who raised a hand to make sure people heard my voice. I was the one who made sure everything aligned right. I was the one who made sure that struggling classmates would get to the finish line. I was mentoring and leading and wasn't even realizing it!

So, after being floored that I had been noticed, I went back to my ALS instructors and asked "why me?" The response was because I was the "Silent Leader" of the class. This is the first time I had heard of this. What a concept, right? I was told that the consistent characteristics allowed people to view me as a leadership example were task follow through, always being available to teach and humility in accomplishments and failures.

Fast forward nine years later, and now I have entered the officer corps. I have found that maintaining my unique leadership traits has continued to propel me forward. This allows me to have a harmonious and genuine rapport with those I work for and work with. Having team members with strong ethical character and who are open to teach and be taught is truly the only way for any organization to succeed.