Leadership Lab with Chief Lindsey

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Over my almost 29-year Air Force career, I have been blessed to have served with very outstanding leaders at all levels. If I were to sum it all up, I would say leadership was the most fascinating attribute each of my senior leaders possessed. There are three distinct things that stand out to me. They are as follows:

First: Start being a leader when you're a junior airman/officer.

Have you ever heard the saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”? To be clear, I’m not saying go over to clothing sales, buy chief or colonel ranks, sew them on and show up at the next wing staff meeting like “what’s up”. It’s only a mindset.

Some of you are probably thinking I’m just a bit crazy when I say start being a leader early in your career. You might be asking yourself, how can I achieve such an enormous task? Well, it’s pretty simple. You have to observe and learn by following, executing and leading at various levels. You have to be a leader of people. You will take on tasks that aren’t elaborate or appealing. You will get your hands dirty, work a few late hours, mentor, educate, groom, and develop enlisted, junior officers, civilians and contractors. While on this path to being a great leader, you won’t do it alone. You will have to build award winning individuals and teams. I encourage you to leverage the tools this great Air Force has given you... and becoming a sought-after leader in your organization will be easy.

Second: Be the best leader you can be and remember that you are human.

You will only be as good as you allow yourself to be. My charge to you is to remember the basics. As a leader, you will make mistakes…how you handle those mistakes will be one of the determining factors in your success. You need to learn from your mistakes so that you do not run the risk of repeating them. You must develop the wisdom and sense to make good decisions and choices. Good judgment will only develop if you truly learn from your mistakes. For many people, it takes a few repeats of the same mistake to learn the lesson or it takes “variations” of a mistake to learn. Be humble and teach your subordinates and peers to not make the same mistakes you have throughout your life.

Albert Einstein said it best, “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”.

Third: Have a leadership plan. This will be the hardest and most important part!

With a myriad of changes in our Air Force today, it is imperative you have a leadership plan. You are faced with and will continue to tackle changes to the enlisted corps, a revised enlisted evaluation system, force reductions, developmental special duties, deployments, budgetary constraints, sexual assault and suicide.

Always remember, a leader isn't good because they're right; they're good because they're willing to learn and to trust. This isn't easy stuff. You can get knocked down, and it hurts and it leaves scars. But if you're a true leader, the people you've counted on will help you up. And if you're a true leader, the people who count on you, need you on your feet.

I strongly suggest you pen your leadership testimony to paper and share it with your Airmen. This has been an awesome ride and I thank the Air Force for letting me be part of an amazing team!