Leading by example

314th Airlift Wing

314th Airlift Wing

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Organizational success is directly proportional to leadership effectiveness. Many believe it's measured by a leader's ability to actively shape behaviors to achieve specified goals and performance. However, becoming too focused on purposefully changing others can overshadow another indirectly powerful leadership style: leading by example.

Those who set a positive example for others to grow and develop are perhaps true leaders. Leading by example is not about a position, wealth, rank or knowledge of what needs to be done. Instead, it's a strong foundation of core values, work ethic and genuine caring for others that guide everyday actions. These leaders influence with a contagiously optimistic attitude and personal sense of responsibility that others trust and inspire to emulate. Civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi once said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world."

Although I have had the honor of working with and for many great leaders, I still recall how my high school football coach taught me the importance of leading by example. He had unwavering integrity and demanded the same from each of his players and coaching staff. He inspired excellence without tearing down self-esteem. He would run and practice with us and give individual attention to every team member. He never asked for more than he was willing to give himself.

Winning was not the priority, but the reward for the team's hard work and commitment. At every meeting he would recite his version of the serenity prayer, "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to tell the difference for I shall pass this way in life but once."

Sportsmanship was paramount. He ingrained a sense of team pride, where no one wanted to embarrass the program or let a fellow teammate down. It was his leadership that transformed a group of underachieving football players into a proud winning family in just one year.

Whether training future combat airlift aviators or maintaining 40-year-old aircraft, we value leadership that we can trust. Truly leading by example can garner the respect and trust essential to long-term success. Make it your goal to inspire your organization to greatness by being the one who leads by example.