If you want something done right

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Samie McPherson
  • 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron
When it is cold outside, more than likely, I'll be wearing a jacket I received during a previous assignment. The unit I was assigned to assumed the mission of conducting all the maintenance portions of the ICBM test launches. To commemorate that new mission, a patch was created that contained the all too familiar phrase "if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." 

As I wore my jacket one day, an elderly gentleman approached me and said "you must be extremely busy doing everything yourself." That simple response made me think about how wrong that phrase truly is for a leader in the Air Force. 

Leaders cannot do everything themselves, nor are they expected to. As stated by former President, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it." With a slight variation, former President Harry Truman said, "A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don't want to do, and like it." Both of these quotes support the fact leaders must rely on other people to perform the tasks required to support the mission. That is what makes them leaders; they lead. 

You read it in your Professional Development Guide and hear it when you attend Professional Military Education classes - leaders develop followers so the leaders don't have to do everything. Leaders provide the proper training and educational opportunities so the followers will know how to perform the tasks correctly. The training can be informal - the leader observing the performance of a simple task; or more complex - a formal training course that takes many months. Initial training is just the beginning; recurring and advanced training is the norm throughout the Air Force. However, all the training has one thing in common - conducting it in the correct way, according to the instructions or technical manuals. 

Leaders must do their part by providing the necessary tools, training and wisdom to ensure others can be successful. Whether the tools are screwdrivers and wrenches, stethoscopes or blood pressure cuffs, computers or calculators; followers need the correct tools to complete the mission. It is the responsibility of the leader to be the steward of the taxpayer's money while obtaining the tools for the followers to use.
Along with training and tools, a leader provides wisdom to bring followers along. Wisdom comes from the experiences gained throughout their lifetime. This wisdom is only good for the follower if the leader is willing to share. Some people would call this mentoring. I simply call it story-telling - with a lesson involved. The benefit of sharing leadership wisdom is so the follower doesn't make similar mistakes. 

For leaders to lead they must ensure the followers are up to the challenge. The training, tools and wisdom leaders provide help followers tackle the challenges and become leaders themselves. It is a never-ending circle. To keep the successful leader from having to do everything, they need to rely on others to get it done right. Remember that jacket? Well, rather than getting rid of it, I will keep it as my gentle reminder I shouldn't be trying to do everything myself.