A chief master sergeant’s perspective on leadership

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Zaki Mazid
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Command Chief Master Sergeant
Leadership is the ability to influence others to willingly work toward the mission and vision you have defined. In order to influence others, you must have a relationship -- and to have a relationship you must have trust.

Simply put, no trust equals no relationship, and no relationship equals no influence.

The goal is to motivate people to want to follow and do the mission to the best of their abilities without you having to use your position and power to influence them.

There are five traits that I believe are the keys to positively influencing others. Those traits include:

· following the Golden Rule,

· maintaining integrity,

· maintaining courage,

· practicing good judgment,

· leading by example.

The first trait is the following the Golden Rule: "Do to others what you would have them do to you." This can also be stated as, "Treat people as you want to be treated." This generates mutual respect at the most basic levels between leaders and followers.

The Golden Rule encompasses all kinds of interactions between people and leaders and can be applied to any situation. It is also the fair and consistent treatment of all followers, which includes the enforcement of standards and always treating people with dignity and respect, regardless of the situation.

The second trait influential leaders must exhibit is integrity. Integrity is the first core value of the United States Air Force, and at the most fundamental level it means a leader does not lie.

This ensures your followers will not doubt or question your guidance. Maintaining integrity also means a leader does not intentionally mislead people, whether it is with a lie, the omission of facts, or by painting a situation in a way that is favorable to the leader.

Leaders with integrity will be trusted by their superiors to always present the truth and followers see this trust between their immediate leadership and other levels of leadership. This adds another level of trust to the leader-follower relationship.

Trust is paramount for being able to get difficult things done or when the follower might not understand the direction they are headed. If followers believe the leader has integrity and trusts them, they will go in the desired direction, regardless of knowing exactly where they will end up because of the trust.

Third, an influential leader is courageous. Courage is defined as being unafraid to face tough challenges. Other words tied to courage are "bravery," "boldness," and "fearlessness."

A leader must have the courage to make the tough decisions that, although they may not be popular, they are the right things to do. Having courage means upholding your integrity when faced with opposition or a bad situation.

A courageous leader will inspire his followers to be courageous in the face of adversity as well and will do what needs to be done despite negative consequences to himself.

Judgment is the fourth trait of an influential leader. Followers see and carry out the decisions made by leaders.

The better the decision that is made, the more influence a leader will have. Having good judgment means a leader can make sound decisions on what is oftentimes incomplete information.

When followers see a good outcome of a decision made on imperfect or incomplete information, they gain more trust in that leader, which enhances the leader's influence.

Finally, influential leaders must lead by example. You have to lead from the front. You cannot stand in the back and yell, "Follow me!"

You must always stand tall and set the example. You have to take care of your people and never ask them to do something you are not willing to do.

Take responsibility for your own actions and never point a finger at anyone else for your own shortcomings. Being an influential leader is not about you, it's about taking care of people and looking out for your followers' welfare.

Our job as leaders is to seek out those young men and women and teach them, lead them, mentor them and provide them with everything they need to become our future leaders. If you lead by example, people will follow you anytime and anywhere you want to go.