Leadership and commitment

  • Published
  • By Col. Blake Edinger
  • 52nd Dental Squadron commander
We are all busy keeping up with the demands of a fast-paced world - as during the holiday season and while preparing for the Installation Excellence Award judging - when the obligations seem to add up faster than the balance on your credit card. Organizations are no different. They find themselves pulled in every possible direction by a multitude of different demands, interests and pressures. With all these distractions, it is easy for any unit to flounder in a flurry of activity that leads nowhere.
As mission demands increase, I have found that it becomes even more important for a leader to focus on his commitment to values, vision and people to keep his organization on track.

Values motivate. Values are what you desire. They reflect a belief in what is right and wrong. Leadership requires a strong commitment to values in order to provide a clear sense of what is important and determine organizational priorities. Values serve as the bedrock of all goals and actions. The three Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do represent much more than minimum standards; they serve as our moral compass. There are many other values worthy of commitment. Our core values, however, provide a solid foundation that other values can be built upon. Values also point the way for continued self-improvement and transcend time and place. This becomes particularly important during adversity when commitment to positive values will help guide you through any situation regardless of its complexity.

A vision, like values, provides direction for action. A vision lets any organization know what success looks like. It is a leader's ultimate expectation for the unit. The more a vision appeals to a member's personal pride and provides an opportunity for all in the organization to make a difference, the more attractive the vision becomes to followers.

However, many times people will not initially commit to a vision - not because they don't care, but because they are caught in a process of doubt. Effective leaders understand this and use their commitment to get their organization through this stage of doubt to a genuine understanding and commitment to the vision.

A leader's commitment to a vision prevents obstacles and doubting individuals from bogging the implementation process down. To make a vision become a reality, subordinates will encounter uncertain situations and will need to make choices without taking the time to consult others. They may also need to improvise or capitalize on opportunities that are time sensitive. A leader cannot micromanage the execution of all of these decisions; he needs people throughout the unit to be capable of making adjustments as obstacles arise.

A leader's commitment to people is also required for success. A major reason people follow any leader is trust. When people think their leader cares about their welfare and recognizes the role they play in performing the mission it develops trust. Respect is also a key ingredient to developing trust. A leader who talks to people and treats them with respect also receives it in return.

Furthermore, a leader's perceived fairness and consistency is also vital to cultivating trust and respect from others. When members trust and respect a leader, they have greater confidence in the leader as well as the vision. More importantly, they are much more willing to reach down deep inside and give their very best under the most difficult circumstances.

It has been said, "There are no half-hearted champions." The same is true of successful leaders.
Commitment to values, vision, and people are the keys to a leader's effectiveness. The best part about making this commitment is that it does not require any special abilities. Rather, it is the result of a choice. Effective leaders choose to commit themselves to their values, vision and people.