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Are we the best leaders we can be

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Many of us struggle with the question "are we the best supervisor and/or leader we can be?" After all, we have a tremendous responsibility to train those who will take our place and to maintain our status as the greatest military on the planet. I've thought about leadership many times in my nearly 28 years of service and there are a few things I think help to shape a good leader.

The first is accessibility. Your people must believe they can count on you. You won't know how to deal with every issue but you have to be there for them and they need to know it! Think about when you've been the happiest in the work place and I'm sure there was a supervisor or leader somewhere in the chain you knew you could turn to. There was for me.

This leads me to my second point, take "care" of your people.

A great quote from an unknown author is "they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Your technical savvy may impress your troops initially but in the long run, they really want you to know you care about them personally and professionally.

I was far from being a model Airman during my first enlistment. Besides being immature, my biggest problem was I never felt like what I did mattered, until I met Staff Sgt. Tom Christian. He was a role model in every aspect of the word and took the time to counsel and encourage me. He sparked something in me and for first time I believed I mattered to my unit, the Air Force and my country. Fortunately, I've had many supervisors who cared about me and it made all the difference in my attitude and performance. Chief Christian retired years later and he epitomized our Air Force core values before we ever thought about formalizing them.

He's also a great example of my last point; do the right thing.

Each of us knows deep down if something is right or wrong, and if we have to ask ourselves the question, we already know the answer. Of course, doing the right thing applies both on- and off-duty. As leaders, we have to always "walk the walk" so there's no doubt we're doing the right thing. Doing the right thing is simply living up to the Air Force's first core value of "integrity first." Remember, your integrity can't be taken from you; you have to give it away.

There's no magic formula for being a good leader, most of the time it's just exercising good common sense and trusting your instincts. When I think back on the best leaders I've known in my career, they all possessed the attributes I mentioned above and more. Accessibility, caring about your troops and doing the right thing are pretty good traits to have, and I can only hope I'll be remembered for having them.