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Commentary | July 30, 2012

An NCO's perspective on leadership - Dad taught me well

By Tech. Sgt. Jon Gallagher 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron

"You can never go wrong, by doing what's right." These words were repeated my entire life by my dad. They were not just words though. My dad proved this to me through his actions as a father, and as CEO of an electric-motor repair business in Alabama.

I was fortunate to learn the characteristics of what it takes to be an effective leader by observing my dad. He was an excellent leader of our family, and his business. I have a bold statement that I am proud to say; I never saw my dad compromise his integrity in any aspect of life. Can anyone say this statement about you?

Being an effective leader is a lot like a diet plan. Anyone who has ever been on a diet can tell you, the weight goes away, but then it comes back once they stop the diet. The reason for this is, just like a diet, leadership is a lifestyle and not something practiced for a few hours a day, or a week or two at a time.

Maintaining a leader-lifestyle means embracing integrity in all aspects of life. If you compromise integrity one time, then you lose credibility with yourself, and those that work for you. No one likes to work for someone they can't trust, and maintaining that trust is the key to being an effective leader.

I have had many different types of leaders in my career, and in my experience, all leaders fall into either being an effective or an ineffective leader. The effective leader is going to do his or her best to become better, while the ineffective leader is not really a leader at all, but rather someone who has worked the system, kept their nose clean and started filling a leadership role - which by no means makes them a true leader. I thought about it, and have boiled it down to the two most common leaders I have observed in my career.

The first type of leader I have observed is the leader who is only looking out for "number one." This leader can be spotted like a lighthouse in the middle of the night. This leader always talks about how good he or she is at managing and getting stuff done. They are quick to stand on a soap box, and talk about how good they are at their job. It seems they try to make me feel like I can never be as good as them.

One thing about this leader I have constantly observed; when it comes down to it, they will do whatever it takes to get promoted, to include compromising their own integrity. When I come across this leader, I do my best to distance myself from them.

The second type of leader I have come across shares a lot of the same characteristics of my dad. This person is quick to give credit for his or her accomplishments to their subordinates. They are also quick to take responsibility for failures of their subordinates.

This leader tends to be humble, and does not need to talk about their accomplishments because this person's accomplishments speak for themselves. This leader is the one taking award packages home to work on so they can get their people recognized. This leader makes decisions and stands by them and is not "wishy washy." This is the leader I know I can trust with my personal issues, and I know they will do everything they can to help me.

We will all come across effective and ineffective leaders. It is up to us on what we do when we have these leaders. We can learn from both.

I once had a supervisor who gave me some really good advice, which I will leave with you. In your career, you will have leaders who do things that work and things that don't. Take the things that work and apply them to your style.

As for the things that don't work, learn from them and make sure you don't apply them to your style. I think dad would agree.