Leadership starts with you

  • Published
  • By Vonda Buhl
  • 508th Aircraft Sustainment Wing
While I understand the desire to achieve a supervisory position, the real objective should be to achieve a leadership position, as author, Mark Sanborn stated "you don't need a title to be a leader." Many of the leadership roles where one doesn't have direct supervisory authority over the team still provide valuable leadership, experience and are often both more challenging and more rewarding. In fact, it's much more powerful to have an organization where everyone leads than to have strong leadership just at the top of the organization; leadership starts with you. 

In today's challenging environment of increasing workload, decreasing resources, a declining experience base and constant change, the Air Force simply can't afford to wait for people to obtain supervisory positions to develop their leadership skills. Actually, the Air Force has always needed leadership at all levels, but today it is imperative that people step up to the numerous leadership opportunities available. Some examples include, helping train and develop personnel as a team lead or functional expert, assuming leadership of an integrated product team, volunteering to lead a lean event, or participating as a subject matter expert on a transformation initiative team. None of these examples is a supervisory position, but all are true leadership challenges. 

Tthese leadership experiences will make you more competitive for that coveted supervisory position in the future. In addition, they allow you to develop and hone critical leadership skills such as effective communications, building coalitions and relationships, critical thinking, motivating teams, and a customer focus. These skills are critical if you want to be a successful leader and effective supervisor. Most importantly, the Air Force needs everyone's leadership during these challenging times. 

In all of the interviews I have participated in, as either a candidate or interview panel member, the one question that always gets asked is, "Can you discuss your leadership experience and philosophy?" Taking advantage of one of the many leadership opportunities available here at Hill AFB will make you more competitive by ensuring you have concrete leadership experience to discuss in your next interview. There is no questioning the power of a response where the interview candidate has demonstrated experience as opposed to a strictly hypothetical or philosophical response. Furthermore, many of the opportunities enable you to broaden your experience base and provide additional hard-hitting examples to use in an interview. Taken together, leadership and breadth of experience will distinguish you from your peers in your next interview. 

In addition to making yourself more competitive for future job opportunities, most of these opportunities will provide you a better understanding of challenges in other functional areas, a better understanding of Air Force transformation initiatives and processes, and an opportunity to directly shape the future of the Air Force. 

Despite the challenges our Air Force faces today, we still must continue to provide superior support to our warfighters. In order to achieve this, we must all step up to the leadership opportunities around us. Today's Air Force depends on leadership at all levels, and that starts with you.