My top 10 greatest points on leadership
By Maj. Matthew Wallace, 45th Mission Support Squadron
/ Published May 11, 2007
May 4, 2007 --
For the last two years, I have been blessed and honored to serve as your 45th Mission Support Squadron commander. What a ride! We have accomplished much, kept things simple, and even coined the phrase "You just can't make this up."
I made many mistakes in my leadership journey, which led me to number 10 on my list of "The Greatest points on Leadership" I have learned since leaving the University of Alabama.
#10 - You are not perfect. No matter how hard we try, we will never get there. Not to say we should not strive for perfection, but keep it real. My religion teaches me there was only one perfect person - and I am not him. We will make mistakes.
#9 - Make aggressive mistakes. In basketball, my coach would say, "I expect you to make mistakes - what I don't expect is for you to be passive and withheld when making them." As a commander, what I want most is to see my folks trying and energetic. I can forgive any mistake as long as the intent was to make the situation better or trying to work stuff for the boss.
#8 - Know, understand, and work your boss' agenda. Know where your boss stands. Understand what is important to him/her and just as important, what has less priority. Nothing will keep your organization running better than taking care of your boss' hot-button issues. Likewise, nothing else ruins it quicker than not knowing and understanding this rule.
#7 - Take your job seriously, not yourself. I have found that a sense of humor is a must in leadership positions. The things I have seen and the words I have heard could fill a book. By not taking yourself too seriously, you allow yourself to be viewed as human. This is a great thing for the people you serve.
#6 - You take care of the people; they take care of the mission. People are the engine of the USAF. People are our greatest and most expensive resource - and should be treated and guarded as such. Leaders cannot accomplish anything - and I do See LEADERSHIP, Page 4 LEADERSHIP, from Page 2 mean anything - without the "followership" of people.
#5 - Know your mission. Seems simple enough, but quick, who can tell me the mission of your unit? Our wing? Our MAJCOM? Our Air Force? As we as a defense force move into the next century, we all must be able to articulate what we do, what we bring to the fight. The citizens we serve in this country expect us to be good stewards of our nation's resources. Knowing and articulating our mission clearly ensures effective and efficient use of Air Force resources.
#4 - Be consistent. Leaders must always act, resolve problems and treat people consistently. One easy way to lose followers is to treat same circumstances and situations differently than in the past. Every situation is different and every decision must be made independently. But in normal, everyday interaction, be the same - especially in your decision processes.
#3 - Take emotion out of decisions. One of the hardest things for leaders is not making a snap decision. If you don't have to make a decision right away, don't. Go home, think, pray and sleep on your decision. Take all external influences out - focus on the decision at hand, pay attention to facts and outcomes, and then don't be afraid to decide.
#2 - Think strategically, act tactically. Leaders must make decisions with an eye to the big picture. I have worked at the wing, MAJCOM and HAF levels. The key I have found is to connect all three levels - wing (tactical), MAJCOM (operational), and HAF (strategic). Seeing things "beyond" face value - and knowing how it all fits in the big picture puzzle is key. We must learn to make all our tactical action relevant at the strategic level.
#1 - Stay relevant. The USAF and world are changing at a frantic pace. Every person, every career field must keep up or get left behind. If you or your organization is not contributing something to the fight, you'll become a distraction - and soon an afterthought.
Bama did not teach me any of this, which is why I say Roll Tide at every opportunity. But Bama did teach me one thing: learn something every day in life. It will make a better person, a better organization, a better Air Force.