The Leadership Laboratory

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Abraham D. Salomon, Jr.
  • 17th Training Support Squadron

Leadership seems to be the answer to everything! When things go right…to some extent a person would say, “it was because of great leadership.” However, if something was to go terribly wrong, it is ultimately the responsibility of leadership, hence, their fault. And how would you fix or repair a problem? Of course, with good leadership!


As a result, we often look to training courses or Professional Military Education classes to teach us about leadership when, in fact, life itself is a leadership laboratory.  Leadership is a journey that involves genuinely caring about people, while making a difference along the way. Therefore, it is through our daily lives that we learn the most on how to become a successful leader. All of us can and should learn from both good and bad examples of leadership traits on display every day. Sounds simple, but ask around and see how many folks actually take advantage of another person’s experiences. We should all draw from the past and present experiences of those who have been there, done that, and probably have the t-shirts to show for it!


As Airmen, we are all in positions of leadership but only if we make the personal and professional commitment to be a leader! So don’t fall under the premise that you have to be a certain rank or position to be a leader.


In retired U.S. Air Force Col. James Moshgat’s Ten Lessons from a Janitor, “Be cautious of labels. Labels you place on people may define your relationship to them and bound their potential. Therefore, be cautious of a leader who callously says, ‘Hey, he's just an Airman.’ Likewise, don't tolerate the O-1, who says, ‘I can't do that, I'm just a lieutenant.’”


Therefore, we have to be in a constant state of learning. However, what will set you apart as a leader is what you do with the knowledge you acquire. Will it simply be lessons learned or lessons applied?


Throughout my 27-years of service, I learned many valuable leadership lessons.  Here are a few I would like to share:


1. Never ask your teammates to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself. 

2. Effective leaders shouldn't focus so much on success; leaders are, first and foremost, committed to making a positive difference, which then leads to success!

3. Take time to get to know your teammates and their families; better yet, do it over a shared meal.

4. Never lose your sense of humor, things could always be worse.

5. We all screw up! Don’t be afraid to admit it, the key is to learn from yours and others mistakes.


In closing, I want to personally thank all of you for choosing to serve this great nation of ours! Remember, as leaders in the U.S. Air Force, the greatest legacy any of us can leave behind is the positive effect we had in the life of a teammate! Take pride in what you do and lead from the front…for we are in a profession where second place is not an option!