A Leadership Perspective

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Larry D. Adkins
  • 10th Missile Squadron Director of Operations
A few years ago, I was asked to present my leadership perspective to a group of students participating in a leadership seminar. My perspective is easy and simple and can be summed up as: Be a good neighbor, always be prepared, and don't lie, cheat or steal.

Being a good neighbor is about being a neighbor in the larger community. Being a good neighbor means helping each other out and paying attention to what's going on around you. For example, if your neighbor's house is on fire, you would call the fire department, and afterward, you would provide assistance and make sure your neighbor has food, shelter and clothing to survive.

As Airmen, we need to watch for the "fires" in our neighbor's lives and get them help when they need it even when they tell us they are "OK." One of the fires we need to watch for is suicide.

Within 20th Air Force, we have lost a number of Airmen to suicide; some of them here at Malmstrom. We are not alone in our loss. According to a Jan. 13 article by Eli Clifton of Inter Press Service, there were 41 suicides in the Air Force in 2009. In the Army, there were 147 reported suicides from January through November 2009 - an increase from 127 in the same period of 2008.

As Airmen, we need to make sure we provide our neighbors comfort, safety and assistance during any fire they may have in their life. Each of us can prevent personal fires from getting out of control by paying attention and reaching out to those in need.

The next part of my leadership perspective is to always be prepared by having your proverbial bags packed, since you never know when the train of opportunity will pull into the station. What does this mean to us as Airmen? First, it means knowing our jobs; not just how to follow the technical orders, but how the system operates, and how we maintain and secure our resource. Our weapon is the most powerful weapon on the planet and perfection is the standard we must adhere to.

Having our bags packed also means completing our Professional Military Education, starting and finishing our CCAF, bachelors and/or our masters degree. I have seen numerous people get passed over for a job, an in-residence course, or a promotion because finishing their education was not a priority to them. As you can see, education is definitely a prerequisite for a long-term military career.

My final leadership perspective is the triumvirate of don't lie, cheat or steal. This rule is fairly simple, but incredibly powerful when implemented to its fullest extent. First, don't lie to your peers, your subordinates or your leadership. If you make a mistake, tell your supervisor. As most of us know, it is easier to tell the truth, than to try and remember which story we told which person. Telling the truth up front saves time and resources.

Following closely behind lying is cheating. In the book, The Kite Runner, a father tells his son, "There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft... When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife's right to a husband, you rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness." I offer this perspective to transition into my own idea of cheating; cheating our family of our presence.

There have been times recently where we have all worked long hours during inspection prep or because we believe we are the only person who can do the job right. Nobody is irreplaceable in their current job. Somehow, someway your shop will figure out how to get things done if you're not there. However, to your spouse, son or daughter you are irreplaceable. Spend some of the non-renewable resource known as time with your family. Enjoy them now, and they will be with you when you retire.

The third part of this trilogy, is stealing. Doing drugs, drinking and driving, and sexual assaults/harassment steals time and personal dignity. As Col Fortney has said, "Airmen don't prey on Airmen, or anyone for that matter." These acts of stealing time and dignity are intolerable and will definitely result in your time being used other than how you want to spend it. Be the 98 percent of people who aren't stealing time by doing things right.

As Airmen, we are held to a higher standard and we should expect those around us to be held to that same standard. I offer my perspective as a model for you to follow: be a good neighbor, be prepared, and don't lie, cheat or steal. It's simple and it's easy.