Four golden rules of leadership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Robert Ellis
  • 39th Air Base Wing command chief
Ask any leader and I'm sure they have a leadership book or philosophy that's impacted who they are as a leader. I've read a lot of different ones throughout my career, but while there are many principles or "rules" I think help make an effective leader, these four are some of the most common and most important. They are gleaned from a book entitled The Art of Influence by Chris Widener: 

Golden Rule #1:
Live a life of undivided integrity. There's a reason integrity is at the forefront of our Air Force Core Values...because integrity matters. It doesn't matter if you're refueling aircraft, building flares or coordinating airfield operations, we need to know we can count on you. Integrity at its core is all about trust; if we can't trust you in one regard, how can we trust you in another? Once your integrity is called into question in one area, it can be called into question in others. I've heard many stories about "good Airmen," or should I say good workers who made bad or irresponsible choices. My response is always the same, good Airmen make responsible choices, so if you want to be counted among the good, live a life of undivided integrity in every regard. 

Golden Rule #2:  
Always demonstrate a positive attitude. I realized early in my career that no one desires to be around negative people, but positive people are like magnets. Attitudes are very contagious so we must model the attitudes we want, even when things aren't going our way. After all, it's not about what happens to you in life, but how you respond to it. Choose to response positively even when negative things come your way and you'll be amazed how much better you feel and how others around you respond. Leaders should be like thermostats and not thermometers; we set the environment to positive, especially when the temperature reads negative. A positive environment is a more productive environment; always demonstrate a positive attitude. 

Golden Rule #3: 
Consider other people's interest as more important than your own. Have you ever worked with someone who only wanted to know "what's in it for me?" The only person they were concerned about was themselves. Perhaps you've had supervisors who were so focused on their career, they didn't have time to mentor you or set you up for success. Those people were great examples of what not to do; good leaders put their people first. People work harder when they know they're taken care of and appreciated. 

Golden Rule #4: 
Don't settle for anything less than excellence. As a friend once told me, "set high standards, get high standards." We get what we accept or tolerate. My hope is that we all raise the bar of excellence so that we are stretched to a new level of achievement. But someone has to set that standard, I challenge you to do so. In this era of lean resources, there's no place in our Air Force for mediocrity; we've got a mission that we must accomplish to the best of our ability with precision and reliability. We only obtain those when you don't settle for anything less than excellence. 

Remember these four Golden Rules, but most importantly apply them to your life and our Air Force as well as our nation will be better served because of you. Thanks for your service.