Leadership Thought — Character and Competence

In 2004, I assumed the Command Chief position at Altus Air Force Base. The Command Chief is a senior leader position and responsible for advising the commander and staff on mission effectiveness, professional development, military readiness, training, utilization, health, morale, and welfare of the command’s enlisted. The Command Chief is to serve as a role model, lead by example, and to serve the commander and the enlisted force.

A key role for a Command Chief is to prepare and develop Airmen for their future leadership opportunities and roles. To fulfill this role I communicated quite frequently with all Airmen in the Wing and I took every opportunity to communicate to the emerging leaders at the Altus Air Force Base Airman’s leadership school.

The Airmen’s Leadership School (ALS) is the first level of professional military education and deliberate leadership development for emerging enlisted Airmen. It is a deliberate and disciplined development program focused on preparing effective front-line leaders/supervisors. The key focus learning areas of ALS are developing leadership skills and abilities, understanding effective communication and its role in leading others, and understanding your chosen career–the profession of arms. The Airmen that attend ALS are the future leaders of the Air Force.

My message to the emerging leaders focused on becoming and being a leader in the Air Force, the expectations of being a leader, and their role in their own development of their competence and character.

“As a leader you have an opportunity to make an impact on your organization and your people every day so the first step in being a great leader is to know yourself.

The journey to being and becoming a leader start with the journey to truly understand who you, what you are capable of accomplishing, and why you want to lead. You reap what your sow or you are what you grow and develop yourself to become.

Becoming a leader takes the time early in your career to grow and develop your understanding of your core values, core beliefs, and your worldview. Understanding how you make choices is a critical component of effective leadership. Your values and your beliefs motivate and drive you and can affect you leadership effectiveness

This is the first and most important step for an emerging leader. These three define who you are and will affect how you make life and leadership decisions. Self-awareness is hard work and requires a commitment to self-discovery, and take persistence, perseverance, and patience in order to lay the groundwork’s for your leadership.

The best investment you can ever make in your life and your leadership to invest in yourself, your talents, and your skills–your competence; and to understand your values, beliefs, and worldview—your character. Being a leader requires you understand that you need competence and character to lead.

General Norman Schwarzkopf when he addressed the Cadet Corps at West Point stated that: “To be a 21st-century leader, you must have two things: competence and character…To lead in the 21st Century, to take soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coastguardsmen into battle, you will be required to have both competence and character.”

Character and competence are the lifeblood of your leadership. They are the double-edged sword of your leadership. On one side is your competence—your skills, talents, abilities, and capabilities. On the other side is your character—your values, your beliefs, and your worldview.

In addition, running down the center of the sword is your Integrity that fuses your competence and character together. And resting at the point of the sword, at the point where your competence and character merge, is your leadership credibility. You must hone both side of the sword to be great leader. Your competence and character must be razor sharp to lead in the 21st Century and the uncertainty and chaos of today’s world.”

Character and competence are the lifeblood and the DNA of your Unstoppable Leadership. Competence and Character are leadership fundamentals and are intertwined with your life and leadership, just like the double helix of life’s DNA.

Character and Competence are the core principles of your leadership DNA. Competence and character; are two sides of the double helix. On one side of the helix is your competence, which represents your personal and professional qualities. On the other side of the helix is your character, which represents who you are, what you believe in and what you value.

The double helix is a life and leadership ladder. Each rung represents your skills, talents, abilities, capabilities, and your core values, beliefs, and worldview. Each rung is connected to the competence and character strands. The key to understanding your true self is to know who you are as a person first. Knowing your true self makes you more effective in your life.

  • What do you believe down deep inside your soul?
  • What do you value in life?
  • What motivates you to be the best person you can be?
  • What skills, talents, abilities, an capabilities do you possess?

The beginning of an unstoppable leadership begins with the knowledge that is up to you to create and live your unstoppable life.

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