Leadership, we walk the talk

Misawa Air Base, Japan -- If I ask someone in the 70th Intelligence Wing what the above statement was I would probably hear: "that's our phrase of the month." Although that would be a true statement, I believe it really misses the point.

Our commander, Col. Jim Keffer, doesn't create these catchy phrases because he has gobs of free time on his hands. He crafts them for two purposes.

The first reason is to ensure we have an effective communications chain all they way down to our most junior Airmen. The measure of success is to ask anyone in the wing "what's the phrase of the month?" From my personal experience, I would say its working.

The second reason we have a phrase is to make you think about a particular subject; for October we pondered what it really meant to be a leader. Having just filled the 373rd Intelligence Group superintendent position, I got a chance to contemplate this very subject from a different perspective.

So what does "Leadership, we walk the talk" mean? It could mean different things to each of us based on what level we provide leadership. One thing common to all levels is that a leader doesn't just provide "lip service." We must "practice what we preach."

We hold ourselves accountable just as we hold others accountable. That means we must continually evaluate our performance to ensure we live up to our core values. Of the three, I believe "Integrity First" is the most important. If we as leaders can't do what's right, then how can we demand that of those who follow us.

Can you be an effective leader if you get your hand caught in the cookie jar? To not walk the talk is like following the old adage "do as I say not as I do." It doesn't work for raising kids, so why would it be beneficial to building future leaders.

It is time to "put your money where your mouth is" and start giving your Airmen both positive and negative feedback. Mark EPRs appropriately; don't "firewall" if it isn't earned.

Don't recommend an end-of-tour decoration if the person just did his or her job. Know what your Airmen are doing on and off duty. Provide mentorship when needed. Always look sharp in uniform, and demand the same of others. Encourage and support awards programs, but don't submit someone who doesn't deserve the recognition.

Demand Community College of the Air Force and Professional Military Education completion from your Airmen, and yourself. If you're a senior NCO and haven't completed these two basic requirements, than you're just another hypocrite. Do you really think your Airmen will take your message seriously? Well think again.

Our force is smarter than ever before. Some of us old Airmen are still trying to figure out the intricacies of all this new technology; something our youngest members take for granted since they grew up using it.

I learned an important word a long time ago called introspection. And, Michael Jackson said it best when he sang "start with the man in the mirror."

Bottom line: don't just say you're a leader; get out there and serve our great Air Force by "walking the talk" everyday. You'll be a better person for it, and your legacy will be all the future leaders who'll follow in your footsteps.