What type of leader are you?

LAJES FIELD, Azores -- Not many Airmen join the Air Force knowing what type of leader they are...yet all are called to lead. Airmen joining military service in their late teens and early twenties quickly learn that their Air Force expects each of its members to lead. Yet at this age and level of experience few know what type of leadership style fits him or her; few can say with certainty what type of leader he or she is. Knowing your personal brand of leadership is a critical first step to being as effective as you can be. So how do you make this "discovery?"

I would advise that the best way to discover your personal leadership style is to become a student. Study the leaders at your base, study to understand what natural strengths you have and study to develop the skills the Air Force has invested in you.

Start by observing the leadership styles of the Airmen around you. Think back to leaders you looked up to from previous bases, from time spent at school or in outside organizations. Who was an impactful leader and what made him or her so effective? And don't limit your studies to those leaders you have personally met or worked with, read about the rich history of leaders the United States Air Force has produced!

Is every USAF leader built the same? The answer is a resounding "No!" We all fill our leadership résumé with different strengths and skills. This diversity produces a wide range of leaders who are able to effectively lead a diverse force in different ways. To be an effective leader is to move a group toward a desired outcome, and this can be done in many ways. We are not all called to stand in front of crowds inspiring others with our spoken word, nor are we all called to lead Airmen in combat strengthening those around us with our courage under fire. Each of these is a fantastic trait but so is the ability to communicate to others a commitment to excellence by the daily example of hard work, or to demonstrate strength by keeping yourself and those around you physically ready to answer the call to deploy. There are fundamental qualities that each Airman leader must possess and those Core Values unite us as a force. But there is absolutely no requirement to "fake" who you are to become a more effective leader. A vital first step in developing your personal brand of leadership is knowing where your strengths lie and what particular skills you possess. Exploit those strengths and develop those skills!

Each of us has the capacity to be a strong Airman leader. But that does not mean that we are leaders the first time we put on the uniform. Fortunately we work in an environment that champions the importance of growing through experience and education. Pay keen attention to the examples of good and bad leadership to better understand how these experiences can refine the leader that you are. Take advantage of education by being a diligent student in Professional Military Education. Be honest with yourself and your subordinates so that feedback can be used as constructive criticism. And if you are not receiving feedback, insist that you get it! No Airmen has reached his or her pinnacle in the first year of military service, this we all know...but the path to maximizing your strengths and skills never truly ends.

Be an effective leader by exploiting your strengths and employing your skills to advance those around you. The Air Force expects no less and your Airmen deserve no less!