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Be ready

  • Published
  • By Maj. Fernando E. Waldron
  • 436th Comptroller Squadron
How do you know if you are ready to command or lead? There is no foolproof checklist, manual or an Air Force Instruction that gives you a step-by-step instruction on how to be an effective leader. But what you can do is prepare yourself. To prepare myself to command the Comptroller Squadron, I developed a game plan. My game plan was designed around 12 principles. It was these principles that prepared me for what was to come my way as the squadron commander.

While achieving my Masters of Science in Sports Management, I focused my attention on the aspect of coaching. During this time I came across Pat Summit's Definite Dozens. The Definite Dozens are 12 principles that all her teams throughout the years have to internalize and live by. Summit instills in her team - that by living by these principles, you will not only be successful in basketball, but in life. I thought to myself, how easy it would be to bring these into my daily life. So, from that moment on, I used her principles to better my leadership skills. I believe that it was these principles that helped me lead the best Airmen I've ever met in my Air Force career. I want to make sure these principles are shared everywhere I go.

The first principle is "respect yourself and others." Respect for yourself does not exist if you do not respect others. I realized early in my career that I cannot do my job well without my young Airmen. You will never be a success without the help of your fellow Airmen. When you respect others, it allows you to answer yes to the question, "do I deserve to be their commander?"

Next, "take full responsibility, even when things go wrong." I must take responsibility for what goes right and wrong in my squadron. Responsibility also means I must be ready to make the hard decisions. Don't sugar-coat to your Airmen that failing physical training is just a bump in the road, especially when it comes to their second failure. It also means admitting to my mistakes and being accountable for them. Let's be real, how can I get better if I think I am never wrong?

Next, "develop and demonstrate loyalty." I do this by respecting my Airmen. I have to give respect to get it. They respect the rank but do they respect the person?

The fourth principle is learning to be a great communicator. Honestly, I struggle with this one. But, I work on it by walking around and saying good morning to as many Airmen as I can and genuinely show compassion about their lives. The dialogue helps me tremendously.

Fifth, "discipline yourself so no one else has to." I see this one as 'do as I ask my Airmen to do.' I make sure I am at work on time; I don't miss physical training, unless I have a more important event to attend. I make sure I am presentable in my uniform. The policies I have in place are not just for my Airmen but also for myself.

The sixth and seventh principles go together; "make hard work your passion" and "don't just work hard, work smart". I strive to do my best with every memo, performance report or award write-up. A lot of us struggle to have our reports in on-time and we dread the time it takes us to craft them. But, let's not forget the effect on a career we have when doing these things. Let's remember that Airmen, who deserve a below-the-zone promotion, deserve your time. Working smarter means you understand who you are as a leader. You find your strengths and weaknesses and then compliment them with your Airmen's characteristics to better minimize your squadron's shortcomings. What I do on a daily basis cannot be done alone. I have to rely on my Airmen to be in-tune with me and me with them.

The eighth principle is to make sure you "put team before yourself." This should sound familiar...'service before self.' We are a team, and when the team is successful the individual is successful.

The next principle is "making winning an attitude." Having a positive attitude about what you do goes a long way. Always having a negative attitude will get you nowhere. We all have our bad days but having a positive attitude will help you see through those situations.

"Be a competitor" is the next principle. You may not be the Airmen's best or favorite commander and that should not be your goal. However, you should strive to be the very best. Your Airmen will feed off your competitiveness and will begin to strive to be the best mechanic, travel technician or loadmaster.

The next principle is probably the hardest to accomplish - "change is a must." You have to be able to adjust to your surroundings. What worked at your last assignment may not work in your current position. When you are able to change, you learn. When you learn, you improve yourself.

The final principle I use to be a better leader is being able to "handle success like you handle failure." When we fail, we look back and examine what happened. We reflect on the mistakes so we do not repeat them. The same should go for when you achieve success. Reflect on what you did correctly and learn from it. Success is not a final destination it's a journey that lasts a lifetime.

It is a privilege to be chosen to command but it was an honor to have been chosen to command a second time, especially here at Dover AFB. I have been here for six months and I can truly say that this assignment has been the best of my Air Force career. Two years ago, I was given my first opportunity to be commander when the previous comptroller deployed. I was chosen to backfill for him, and I was ecstatic and nervous at the same time. But I felt I was ready. I was ready because I was prepared. I have internalized these principles and they have been my guide throughout my time as a commander. It has been my pleasure to serve with you and I wish you great success in the future.