One of the first pieces of advice I received from my fellow Chief Master Sergeants after I was selected for promotion to Chief Master Sergeant was —
“Remember as Chief Master Sergeant and a Senior Enlisted Leader you have a target on your back and you must never ever forget that you are always on stage. How you live your life and how you lead will be under the critical eye of your people. Always, Always, Always keep your integrity intact. Integrity means living by your word, keeping your promises, and over-delivering in everything you do. You must lead by example and the standard each day.”
This was great advice and a good reminder that I must never forget that I am always on stage as a leader and my team and organization was looking at me to set the example as a leader. In AFI 36-2618, the Air Force set high standards and expectations for all leaders. Below are key leader and leadership expectations:
- Clearly meet, and strive to exceed, the standards and expectations levied upon all junior enlisted Airmen and NCOs. Epitomize excellence, professionalism, pride, and competence, serving as a role model for all Airmen to emulate.
- Demonstrate, inspire, and develop in others an internalized understanding of Air Force Core Values and The Airman’s Creed.
- Epitomize the finest qualities of a military leader. Provide highly effective leadership. A SNCO’s primary purpose is mission accomplishment.
- Lead and manage teams while maintaining the highest level of readiness to ensure mission success.
- As key mentors, they must deliberately develop subordinates into enlisted leaders of the future.
As a senior leader, I was accountable and expected to lead by example, set the standard, and then live it daily. This was a 24 hour 7 days a week and 365 days a year leadership responsibility. It required 100% of my effort; nothing less would do.
As a way to mitigate the risk of not living up the Air Force Standard and setting the wrong example for my team and organization I aligned my core values with the Air Force Core values and high leadership standards for myself and my teams. By demanding excellence in my life and leadership I was always striving to be better that the standard.
You cannot survive if you lack integrity or wholeness. A lack of integrity will cause a tension or conflict in your life until you realign yourself to your purpose, values, and beliefs. Authentic people model and maintain their values and act in a way that is both honest and congruent with their beliefs and values.
Integrity is key and essential in military operations and the safe operation of aircraft, ships, and submarines. The integrity or the trustworthiness of a jet fuselage, a ship, or submarine’s hull is crucial to safe operations and the survival of the crew. Integrity in your life means that you intend to live an authentic and true life. Authenticity means a person is accountable and responsible for their actions, words, and decisions.
This is critical for you to understand as a leader—your leadership is always under scrutiny by your people. People are looking to see if your words and actions are congruent. They look to see how you show up at work each day. They look to see how you live your life away from work. They are looking to see if you are authentic.
The questions you need to ask yourself are:
- How will I be perceived when I walk through the office door?
- Am I the same person at work and at home or am I living two different lives?
- Do my people see me as authentic or fake?
- Am I leading with my values each day?
Bottom line: You must never forget that to be a genuine leader you must live it 24/7. You must take ownership of your life and leadership.