Growing as a leader through others

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. - Many consider leadership a trait you’re born with it, while some consider it a trait you hone and develop through reflection and feedback. I contend it is both—we all have leadership qualities within us, and it is our life experiences and interactions that shape them.

My kindergarten teacher, Ms. Gleason, was easily one of the sweetest lady you’d ever meet. It’s been a long time, but I remember when Ms. Gleason would give me praise when I chose the right color or stayed within the lines coloring. She mentored 25 kids that year and probably 2,500 kids since then. That one teacher had more impact to young minds than most of us ever will.

In high school, I had a coach named Red Heeres who was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. Coach Heeres has coached sports and opened the gym for over 40 years. Red would not only give you knuckles on a good play or a great basket, but he would also put a foot in your rear when you weren’t putting out your best or pushing yourself through the last set. Red always knew when you had more in the tank. Red inspired me to always strive to be better than I am. He influenced countless lives through discipline, sports and daily interactions.

A pretty smart guy named Matthew once wrote, “To be a leader, you first have to be a servant.” Whether serving kindergartners like Ms. Gleason or athletes like Coach Heeres, both of these influential leaders shaped lives by serving others first and foremost.

To employ airpower successfully, we as Airmen have to grow as leaders. Just as iron sharpens iron, Airmen sharpen Airmen. Leaders grow by the community around them, sharpening them and making them better. We are sharpened by other Airmen mentoring us, like Ms. Gleason did, with positive affirmation. We are sharpened by other Airmen coaching us, like Coach Heeres did, with strong discipline.

Continue to be a 360 degree leader. Lead up, lead down, lead all around. Mentor, coach and lead every fellow Airmen that you come in contact with. You’ll be better for it, and we will be a better Air Force because of it. Lead ‘em well Airmen!