Humilem, Affabilis, et Credendum.
The military loves its Latin mottos! Humble, approachable and credible. These attributes are the driving force behind the Air Force’s elite Weapons Instructor Course. If this is what we expect from our best, why not expect this from all of our peers? This attitude towards leadership is not groundbreaking or new, but is a great start if you are looking for direction or a vector. It is a warrior mentality that the Wing embraces and these traits that should define us.
Credibility is hard to earn and relies heavily on job knowledge and trust. All Airmen start off vying to be experts in their chosen occupation and that path is long and usually very demanding. A young maintainer will start off on jobs signing out all the tools and for the most part, hold a flashlight while they watch …they learn…they study the art of troubleshooting and repairing. The same is true for a young and inexperienced pilot. They will find themselves on early deployments with other flyers that have more hours and deployments. These crews are purposely built to offset the lack of experience that young pilot brings to the team.
What happens to this young maintainer or pilot over the years is this transformation that is a result from years of learning and executing the mission. The maintainer will look around and realize he is the one teaching an apprentice how to fix a plane while the rookie holds a flashlight. The pilot on his fourth deployment down range will stop to look at his or her crew and see combat aviators that have less than hundred hours and are on their first endeavor from home. This kind of credibility is not earned overnight.
You know what can be learned overnight? Approachability.
It is literally defined as being pleasant, congenial and cordial. This takes no talent and definitely does not take years to learn but we all have probably met at least one non-approachable or distant leader in our lifetime. The thing is…. being approachable is easy but it still takes meaningful effort. You have to listen, not be passive in engaging co-workers, and most importantly….be mindful of the non-verbal communication. It is a trait that has to be passionately pursued and not flaccidly sought. If you think you are approachable, you may not be. Just ask? The more approachable and trustworthy you are, the faster you will get information and you’ll be able to get to the issues that require leadership quicker.
Last but not least, my favorite trait….humility. Nobody is infallible or perfect. We all learn from excruciating, humbling experiences. If you are the expert in your field, and you are approachable, do not become overconfident or arrogant. Part of being a reliable professional is to know your strengths and weaknesses and be accountable. Push yourself and don’t be afraid to fail. This takes courage and confidence. It is about minimizing yourself and maximizing the mission! To close, here’s a dead guy quote also borrowed from some experiences in the Wing.
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there. Eighty are just targets. Nine are real fighters and we are lucky to have them for they make the battle. Ah but the one. One is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” Heraclitus.
We all should strive to be that humble, credible and approachable warrior.
- Major Jesse Barnes 374th MXG