Where do leaders come from?

Leadership image

(Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay)

“I’m a leader not a follower.  Unless it’s a dark place, then you are going first”.

(Unknown)

Got invited back down to Orlando in October for my recurring speaking role on the Intern Whisperer podcast.

Season 2, Episode 92 featured me discussing all things leadership to include earliest memories of venturing into leadership roles.

The quote above makes me laugh because I know people who perform in their leadership role in a similar manner.  No worries when things are going well but no support, help or empathy when things get tough.  These so-called leaders also seek the spotlight in good times and hide out during the bad.

Back to the podcast and why I’m discussing leadership in this blog post.  The students who produce the Intern Whisperer podcast are extremely sharp and asked great questions from start to finish.  One question that really stood out to me was, “What was your earliest memory of taking on a leadership role and how did it make you feel”?

Seems like a straightforward question but I had to think about it for a bit.  I have always been an athlete and grew up playing multiple sports; football, basketball, baseball and track (high jump).  Never considered being active in sports as leadership, just a way to pass the time and hang out with friends.  Yes, I know leadership and teamwork are integral in a team environment, but I was just having fun during this time frame.  My interviewers seemed to think my sports background would have been where my leadership foundation started.

My earliest memory of taking on an active leadership role and embracing everything involved was when I became a Master Instructor at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi (Biloxi).

I served at multiple Air Force installations as a Personnel Systems Manager (HR Data Analyst) and got an opportunity to train analysts Air Force wide based on my work performance and knowledge.  So, I went for writing computer code for one Air Force base to training every data analyst in my career field—worldwide.  Pretty heady stuff for someone from Jasper, Florida!

This role stands out as my earliest leadership memory because I had to expand my personal and professional goals and understand the importance of ensuring my students got a world class education.  Everything they needed to be successful in the career field came directly from me.  I couldn’t have a bad day in class because my lack of preparation, patience or knowledge would hinder their abilities to perform; in class and when they returned to their respective organizations around the world.

I went from being responsible for myself to leading a group of 25 students on a six-week educational journey.  We routinely graduated 10 classes every fiscal year—I spent 4 years as an Air Force instructor at Keesler Air Force Base before moving back into my career field at Kadena Air Base, Japan (Okinawa).

The Air Force Technical School environment is the incubator that taught me leaders must be able to adjust leadership style, inspirational tactics and provide tough love when needed.  The students needed different things to successfully complete our course.  My ability to lead was needed daily.

It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done but it laid the foundation for my current leadership and life philosophy:  Make a difference daily!

Leadership article

(Instructor of the Year Presentation)

What are your earliest leadership memories?  How do these memories impact you today? (Respond in the comments section—thanks!) 

Thanks for walking with me!

“Be a LEADER, not a boss”.

(Calvin Williams)