Essential leadership traits
By Colonel Craig A. Wilcox, 89th Airlift Support Group commander
/ Published August 09, 2011
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
Over the span of a career, one has the opportunity to hear many leaders speak and provide their philosophy on leadership traits. In some cases, the words or examples they use will resonate with you personally. Which speakers or which leadership ideas resonate with you will be individually dependent, and influenced by your upbringing and own internal code of ethics. For me, four key words have continually jumped out and become the guide for me going forward: winning, teamwork, leadership and vision. I have come to honor this quartet of words, most notably after working for Maj. Gen. Harold Moulton, United States Europe Command director of operations, but they have been echoed throughout my career by other superb leaders. So what do they mean to me, and what possibly can I tell you about them?
Winning: while not everything in life is a competition or an evaluation, there certainly are many things that are, especially in the profession of arms. So when there is a score kept, or a grade given, is there really any other choice but to try and win? Coming in second is not as much fun, and why not shoot for the worthiest goal? Let's set a plan and goal to win every day. Winning instills pride and builds confidence, and it can become contagious.
Teamwork: there is nothing an individual can accomplish that a pair or trio can't accomplish more effectively. No work center can afford not to enlist the help and support of others to do something easier. No squadron can single-handedly accomplish the goals of the group, and no individual group can further a wing's mission without teamwork. And at Joint Base Andrews, no single wing owns the day, it takes the team of wings to make the base shine. So let's look to build friendships daily and co-opt teammates in all we do. You can never have too many friends or teammates when the going gets tough. Contagious winning in a teaming environment is a beautiful thing to behold.
Leadership: maybe the most personally defining of these four words; it not only defines you as a person, but also is something you will never conquer or completely master. Leadership is a trait that requires constant attention, an openness to learn and possibly an understanding that modifications are required from time to time. But it is also a trait that can be exhibited by everyone, at a single instant in time under crisis, or continually by actions that others recognize and emulate. The Air Force looks for each of us to lead bosses, peers and subordinates everyday by setting the example paying attention to standards and details, and doing what's right, all the time. Leadership that helps take a team to a winning conclusion, WOW!
Finally, vision: vision takes conscious thought, time to think about what it is you are doing and how it contributes to the larger mission at hand. It means thinking into, even dreaming about, the future that is one month, six months, or a year out. It requires contemplating how things might be done differently, done more effectively. Think about what might be changed, what actions you might like to see accomplished, and then talk about those ideas, discuss them, debate them and start a plan of actions to accomplish them. Vision is about what is possible in the future - and I believe that anything we can remotely think of and imagine is possible, with proper leadership, teamwork and a desire to win.
Winning, teamwork, leadership, and vision: four ideas that can guide our everyday activities, help to set a career or life path ahead of us and possibly, just maybe, someday help change the world.