• Published
  • By Maj. Wardias Little
  • 39th Contracting Squadron commander
Over my 20-year career I have been constantly honing my leadership skills. Most of the leadership tools have come from various leaders I have worked with, or witnessing their philosophy through briefings.

One such leader was the former Commander of Air Education Training Command, retired Gen. Stephen Lorenz, who I heard deliver his inspiring presentation "Lorenz on Leadership." The key points from that presentation were to genuinely care about the people you lead, be yourself and keep a good attitude. He also noted there is no one way to lead; so, find what works for you and let your values be your guide.

Like Lorenz, there are a few key points I use to keep me on the track of success in the military and in life. They are called the "ABCs" - attitude, better and courage.

First, your attitude can and will have an impact on the people around you.

From the beginning of my military career, I can remember how the positive attitude of others had a profound impact on me. Upon enlisting in the Air Force, the medical field was my number one preference. However, that did not happen with my selection to Security Police - the opposite end of the spectrum from the medical career field. The initial job notification was unexpected and my excitement waned, but the overwhelming enthusiasm of a fellow Airman helped provide perspective. He said, "you have the best job in the Air Force" and he would kill to be in the Security Police. Suddenly, I began to feel better about this selection and vowed to keep a positive outlook. That made all the difference and I excelled in the Security Police career field and developed the upmost respect for the people and the job.

The same was true when I deployed to Southwest Asia to take over as the contracting construction flight commander. Upon arriving, there stood the tattered, patch-work tent with dirt floors that would be my home for the next several months. The sight of it was discouraging, but then I noticed two huge smiles from my technical sergeant and airman 1st class. They covered the dirt floors with carpet, rigged up a little seating area and installed a television. It clicked again ... attitude is everything.

The troops were happy to see me, as well as were optimistic about the work we would be doing. That optimism and can-do attitude became the unit's standard and brought with it amazing mission accomplishments. So remember, your attitude can and will set the tone for others.

Second, leave things better than you found them.

While on a challenging remote tour in Saudi Arabia, I was the lead administrative contracting officer for the Defense Contract Management Agency. The unit was authorized 15 people, but only four were on the ground working. Increased manning became the objective even after being told getting temporary workers until permanent replacement could arrive would never happen. I did not let that stop me. As a result of numerous requests, the first temporary workers showed up and manning grew eighty percent - the best rate in years.

Manning was only one of the challenges encountered during that tour in Saudi Arabia. With an undersized crew, many things were not getting done. There was one particular area that bothered me the most because it was being purposely placed on the back burner - a contractor had been waiting four years on an invoice payment totaling $100,000. The contractor made numerous attempts for payment, but to no avail. I was determined not to leave this problem for the next person and, after nine months of concentrated effort the issue was resolved. Therefore, leave things better than you found them. It makes a difference.

Third, embrace your fears and charge forward for this is the essence of courage.

We all experience fear, but it is what we do with that fear that determines our success. Throughout my career I have been placed in uncomfortable situations, but I achieved what was needed to keep moving forward.

One situation arose while deployed to Afghanistan. While under constant bombardment during a site survey at a forward operating base, a mortar destroyed a building less than 50 meters from my location. Without panicking, I helped several personnel to protective shelter in a nearby bunker, and after the "all clear" pressed forward with the mission. These opportunities continued to present themselves. After a suicide bomber with several gunmen attacked the entrance of base, I volunteered to be convoy commander and completed more than 20 missions outside the wire. It would have been easy to allow fear to paralyze me, but I didn't.

The day may come when you will have to be courageous. Take a deep breath and forge on. You have what it takes.

The United States Air Force has the most highly trained and professional people in the world. The "ABCs" of attitude, better, and courage are tools that can help continue to ensure our Air Force remains the most powerful and respected Air Force in history.