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what leaders owe their followers

During my time in the Air Force I often told my commanders that they owed their Airmen two things: Discipline and Purpose.

The business of the Air Force is one that is extremely dangerous upon which lives are dependent every day. It was crucial for our Airmen to be a disciplined force. We needed to be a compliance-oriented force. Adherence to technical orders, checklists and Air Force instructions ensured we could minimize risk to our operations and to our people. But being a disciplined organization is important regardless of the nature of the mission. Being a disciplined organization brings structure and order, a code of behavior that the team operates from. Someone once said, “Discipline is not what you do to someone, it’s what you do for someone.” Discipline is the foundation of the organization from which success is built upon.

While discipline is the foundation for success, purpose is just as important. Leaders must ensure that every member of the team knows and understands their purpose. From the most junior member of the team up to the most senior leader…everyone matters. It takes everyone to ensure the mission gets accomplished. In 1971 Stanford University led by Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jim Plunkett defeated a heavily favored Ohio State team coached by the legendary Woody Hayes. Stanford defeated the Buckeyes 27-17 after an MVP performance by Plunkett. Stanford published a commemorative book celebrating the win. On the very last page was a picture of an elderly, gray haired woman who managed the team training table. The caption next to the picture read: “this is the lady that fed the man that has the arm that threw the ball that demolished the team that Woody built.” Everyone on the team has a purpose and it is up to the leader to ensure they know it.

Discipline and purpose are essential for any team, organization, or business to excel!



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