Leadership has no rank; anyone can be a leader

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Rogers Trahan
  • 81st Medical Support Squadron first sergeant
You may have heard the phrase, "with rank comes responsibility." Without a doubt that's true, but effective leadership can take place regardless of rank. Over the past 20 years, I've observed and practiced leadership at different levels. I've found there are four key principles to become an effective leader -- know yourself, know your job, set a positive example and accept responsibility. 

Knowing yourself requires a self-assessment to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Leaders continue to use their strengths to accomplish the mission, develop individuals and build their leadership role. In addition, effective leaders identify their weaknesses and take advantage of every opportunity available to develop that weakness into a strength. Individuals should take opportunities to step outside their comfort zone; you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish. 

Knowing your job requires competence and the continuing efforts to expand your knowledge. 

During World War II, an Army study of enlisted soldiers asked them to define good leadership. The most frequent response was "competence." 

William Cohen, author of "The Art of Leadership," wrote, "Research has demonstrated conclusively that there is an important source of power that will automatically attract others to you and make you their uncrowned leader. That source of power is expertise." 

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other -- an effective leader will never become complacent with what he or she knows. I was once given the advice that everyone should strive to become the acknowledged expert in their career field. Becoming that acknowledged expert requires a commitment to staying abreast of the latest information in your career field. 

Leaders set the standard by setting a positive example. Leaders are role models that exemplify high standards from dress and appearance to moral conduct. 

During a deployment as an aircraft maintainer, I had the pleasure of observing a senior noncommissioned officer sign out a toolbox and work the flight line with his fellow maintainers every day. His role was to fill a supervisory requirement, but when he was asked why he was working aircraft, his response was "because this is my job." He understood the meaning of fly, fight, win and knew that his contributions on the flight line would inspire others. He earned the respect of all ranks during that deployment -- he set the standard by setting a positive example. 

Leaders are required to accept responsibility at all levels. Leaders must ensure their people are trained, equipped and aware of the objectives they are being tasked to complete. Failure to accept responsibility in any area can greatly affect the group's capability and lose the respect of the group. Gen. Curtis LeMay once said, "If I had to come up with one word to define leadership, I would say responsibility." 

Leadership is the art of influencing and directing people to accomplish the mission. Leadership has no rank; anyone can be an effective leader.