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Leadership must be earned daily -- with RESPECT

  • Published
  • By Col. David Coley
  • 60th Maintenance Group commander
Leadership is not given, ordained or a right. It doesn't come from position or rank. Leadership must be earned every day. Any Airman can be a leader as long as they are disciplined in their positive daily habits. Andrew Carnegie once said, "The older I get the less I listen to what people say and the more I look at what they do."

The acronym RESPECT provides the foundation to foster the right mindset and actions to become a leader.

R - Responsibility. A leader must be an example; someone who takes responsibility for their actions and understands all leaders live in a fish bowl.

"Be an example to your men, in your duty and in private life," Field Marshall Erwin Rommel said to explain responsibility. "Never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don't in your endurance of fatigue and privation. Always be tactful and well-mannered and teach your subordinates to do the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide."

E - Empowerment. The ability to empower is a skill that must be learned to be an effective leader. Empowerment creates a force multiplying effect, as you are able to accomplish so much more than by simply holding the reins yourself.

"A leader takes people where they want to go, a great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be," Rosalynn Carter said.

S - Support. Great leaders know how to support someone else's personal dreams and goals. A leader developing self-confidence through personal growth best accomplishes this. Ultimately, if you help enough people get what they want then you will accomplish what you want.

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself," Jack Welch said. "When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."

P - People. Every leader recognizes that people are our most valuable resource. Understanding what motivates people is essential to good leadership.

"Leadership is solving problems," said retired Gen. Colin Powell. "The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership."

E - Enthusiasm. Many key traits are identifiable for leaders; enthusiasm is definitely one of them. More importantly, a good leader has honed their ability to have contagious enthusiasm. As a leader, no matter how challenging the obstacle or task, enthusiasm more often than not, is the equalizer.

"What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog," Dwight D. Eisenhower said.

C - Commitment. Any Airman who wants to be a leader must be committed to the Air Force Core values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. Commitment is often the difference between continual success or failure. Leadership in the profession of arms requires selfless commitment.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things," said English economist and philosopher John Stuart Mills referring to patriotic commitment. "The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

T - Teamwork. The merit of a great leader is their ability to build, develop and foster teamwork. Andrew Carnegie defines this concept in simple terms.

"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision," he said. "The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."

Today more than ever the Air Force needs Airmen with the ability to lead. A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. Most people don't set out to be a leader, but become one by the quality of their actions and the integrity of their intent.

Understanding that leadership must be earned everyday is important. Using the RESPECT model develops a leader's ability to succeed.