The bottom three: Leaving your mark

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ted Detwiler
  • 62nd Operations Support Squadron commander
I recently came across a series of questions, the origin of which is somewhat sketchy. 

I take no personal credit for them, but I think they offer an excellent opportunity for all of us to reflect on our roles as leaders.

 The questions posed here are not direct quotations, but capture the essence of the argument. Regardless of rank or position, I challenge you to consider the following set of questions:

First, the top three

1. Name the last two Heisman Trophy winners.
2. Name the last two Oscar winners for best actor or actress.
3. Name the last two Nextel Cup champions.

Next, the bottom three

1. Name the two coaches or teachers who had the greatest impact on you.
2. Name the two supervisors who influenced you most.
3. Name the two people who were there for you when you needed it most.

I'm guessing most of you can't answer the first three correctly, although true NASCAR fans can probably name the Nextel Cup champions and argue about why their favorite driver should have won.

 But each and every one of you can answer the bottom three and can probably name more than two people who fit the bill.
Gen. Wilbur Creech summed it up when he said, "The first duty of a leader is to create more leaders." We develop leadership in many ways, but first and foremost we do it by example. 

None of us can be everything to everybody, but we all have the opportunity to be something to somebody. 

Whether you're the "go-to Airman" in the squadron, the wingman who everybody turns to, the company grade officer who has been there and done that or the squadron commander, your duty is to develop future leaders. 

Don't talk about the example, be the example. Do this, and you are guaranteed a spot in the "bottom three." 

My point is simple. When you move on, regardless of whether it's a result of retirement, separation or a permanent change of station, how do you want to be remembered?

 The "top three" will be remembered by some, forgotten by most and immortalized in print as the answer to a trivia question. 

The "bottom three" will be remembered by many, leave a lasting legacy and be immortalized by those who they have had the opportunity to touch. Stories, myths and legends will be told and retold about them, each better than the last. 

Being in the "bottom three" requires focused effort and dedication beyond normal day-to-day responsibilities, but the payback both personally and professionally certainly outweighs the cost. 

I challenge you to set your sights a little lower and become a member of the "bottom three."