Leadership lessons learned

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As I am at the end of my command tour here at Vandenberg, I have been doing a lot of self-examination on how I did as a commander. Did I give it my best? What did I do right? What could I have done better? As I think about the past two years, I decided to share with you some things I feel have worked for me as a leader and commander. They are: "expect to fail", "be fair", and "it ain't about you."

Expect to fail

I like to put a corollary with this: if you have never failed at something, you are not trying hard enough. You need to be ready to try different things and be bold as a leader. However, you will not succeed at everything. That is how you learn. If you are not taking risks as a leader, then there will be no growth or improvement in yourself or your organization. You must have the expectation that you will fail at some things. Take those opportunities, learn from them, and try again. Expect, and do not be afraid, to fail.

Be fair

This goes along with our core value of "Integrity First". If you are not fair as a leader, then you will lose credibility and respect. You need to be objective as a leader, and be thorough in your analysis of a situation involving your people. You cannot treat anyone differently. You must give people what they deserve. If a person deserves punishment for a criminal action or disciplinary infraction, you must give it. If another person does something similar, you have to hold him or her accountable as well. This also goes for rewards. You have to reward people the same when they do well. You cannot have favorites as a leader. If you do, you risk losing your people's respect. Respect is earned, not given. Once you lose it, it can be very hard to get back, therefore, making it harder to motivate and lead your people. The end result will be your inability to get things done.

It ain't about you

If you are more concerned about you and your career than your Airmen and the mission, you are wrong. Leadership is about serving your fellow Airmen, whether it is your peers, superiors, or followers. Harry Truman said, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." I have found this to be true. It is a great feeling when you see others to succeed. The accolades you get in your career will be much easier on your conscience knowing you did not have to step on others to be successful. People will want to follow you if you do what is right by them and the mission. They may not always like you, because you have to make unpopular decisions and choices to get the mission done. However, they will respect you if you do not take advantage of them for personal gain. Be humble. Give your people your time and energy, and the rewards will come.

I hope you take to heart these lessons. I have over my time here as a commander, and over my career as an officer. I have found them to help me succeed, not just in the Air Force, but in life. I would like you to take them with you, as I leave, and use them to create your own success.