A leader’s #1 job: Grow more leaders

  • Published
  • By Col. Marc Van Wert
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander
A retired Air Force general said, "the #1 job of a leader is to grow more leaders." I couldn't agree with him more. There is no more important time in our history than now to ensure we produce the best and most competent leaders in the Air Force. Our nation expects it, and the only way for us to ensure we maintain the best Air Force in the world is to put our heart and soul into developing the next generation of leaders.

This said, I would like to share with you my philosophy on leadership. The first thing to point out is being a leader is not an end-state. Regardless of your rank or position, we are all continuously growing, evolving and adapting our leadership skills as we serve in different jobs. I constantly observe other leaders in action, to improve my own leadership abilities and to mentor others. Leadership takes practice to be good, and leadership is really no different than any sport or hobby you do...it takes hard work and dedication to be good--and we must all constantly improve it.

Now many people have a long list of recommendations on what it takes to be a good leader. All of these suggestions are great, and I am not downplaying any of them. But I try to keep it simple: To me, the prime foundation of leadership besides the Air Force Core Values (Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do) resides in an acronym I use because I like golf. That acronym is PAR...pride, attitude and respect for others. Unfortunately, my golf scorecard rarely has many PARs.

Pride: As leaders, we should be proud of your unit and instill pride in others. With that pride comes a commitment to excellence, high standards, a competitive attitude and an unbeatable team. We should all be proud of wearing our uniform...there is no greater honor than to serve our country, protect our constitution, and ensure our red, white and blue waves above us forever.

Attitude: By attitude, leaders need to be positive. A positive attitude is contagious and leads to continued mission success, adherence to standards, safety and mission focus. On the contrary, a negative attitude can spread in a unit like wild-fire...as leaders we must strive to maintain that positive attitude and spirit and our personnel and unit will follow suit.

Respect for others: As leaders, we must demand from ourselves and others in our organization a respect for each other. This means treating each other fairly irrespective of religion, race, gender, ethnicity or rank. If we don't treat others with respect, the morale of our organization will suffer, unit cohesion will collapse and the mission will fail. Bottom line, treat each other as professionals and with the utmost respect...we are all on the same team and trying to execute the same mission.

Paramount to all this is taking care of yourself. If we don't take care of ourselves, it makes it difficult to take care of our family, the people that work for us and the mission. I cannot emphasize this enough, we must all strive to take care of ourselves and remain Fit to Fight...spiritually, mentally, socially and physically.

So to summarize, we all must collectively strive to be the best Airman, leaders and professionals we can be. Our nation has high expectations for us, and we must deliver...it's our calling. Keep the leadership tips you learn from others to make us better, groom our subordinates to grow them as leaders, and constantly try to maintain pride in what we do, a positive attitude and respect for others. Above all, take care of yourself so we can take care of the mission and each other.

Thank you for your service Team Fairchild...Fly, Fight, Win!