At Two Blue Aces, we have published numerous blogs over the past year on leadership and how our experiences in the Air Force are interchangeable and applicable to any organization or environment. While we researched for our blogs, we discovered innumerable examples throughout history of leadership in action. However, despite these clear examples and definitions of effective leadership, we find ourselves wondering why there continues to be such an unquestionable need for good leadership throughout our country?
The more I thought about it, I began to consider what character traits effective leaders seem to have in common. The trait that was almost unanimously consistent was the simple ability to take charge. Taking charge is defined as accepting responsibility for something and taking control over it. In so many cases, we see people in leadership positions not taking charge and delegating or simply defaulting on their responsibilities. At every opportunity, I have had to lead in my Air Force and airline careers, I have embraced the responsibility of taking charge and have impressed upon my young leaders the need to do the same. Your people expect you to take charge and anything less is a breach of faith and trust with those you are given the responsibility to lead.
Regardless of what business you are in, I believe we can all think of examples when we have witnessed colleagues or superiors that are not committed to their leadership roles. I am sure we have seen people cut corners and fail when they were expected to perform. Whether you work in business, law, medicine, education, or the military, if you find yourself in a leadership role, your colleagues will be looking to you in times of crisis. It will be your responsibility to act when everyone else is looking around waiting for someone to make a decision.
So many times, in these situations, the leaders are nowhere to be found and as a result, poor decisions are made because proper leadership was not present. With that said, my advice to anyone in a leadership position is quite simple. Show up, stand up, speak up, and more importantly, take charge. Your people will respect you for it and you have been put in those positions because someone entrusted you with leading…do not let them down.
I will leave you with a few quotes from great leaders throughout history that echo these sentiments. Enjoy.
“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” - John Kenneth Galbraith
“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” -Stephen R. Covey
“Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.” -Winston Churchill
“To lead people, walk beside them…. as for the best leaders, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate…when the best leader’s work is done the people say, we did it ourselves!” -Lao-Tzu
“Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence…If you’re in control, they’re in control.” -Tom Landry