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Today's Air Force leaders need to RIP into the mission

  • Published
  • By Col. David Sanford
  • 386th Expeditionary Mission Support Group commander
The Air Force is experiencing a multitude of challenges as it begins to plan for the post Operation Enduring Freedom world. Sequestration, budget pressures, force structure changes, changing culture, etc. are creating stresses that are unnerving even the most stalwart Airmen. Nonetheless, as Marine Corps Captain Lloyd Williams stated so eloquently before the Battle of Belleau Wood in World War I, "Retreat? Hell, we've just got here!"

Now is not the time to be paralyzed by these challenges, but it is time to embrace them and demonstrate Resolve, Inspiration, and Perseverance (RIP) to accomplish the mission.

Resolve: Leadership is not the sole province of the officer and senior NCO corps, but resides at all levels; most importantly with the front line supervisors. As such, all leaders must be resolved. Issues will arise, support may be lacking, but leaders resolve to avoid the easy wrong and do the harder right. Too often, we answer "no" because that is the easiest approach. Leadership is hard, but leaders should rise above the temptation of the easy "no" and commit to the harder "yes" of taking care of Airmen and getting the mission done.

Inspiration: Great leaders inspire others. Both internal inspiration and the ability to inspire those around you are critical to mission success. The best leadership, whether in peacetime or wartime, is borne as a conscientious obligation to serve. That obligation provides inspiration, but it must be harnessed and applied creatively to initiate positive change. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Corporation, said, "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." His leadership has transformed how we communicate across the globe. More importantly, he inspired others to think outside the box to revolutionize how they think, act, and approach process change. Be that leader. It may seem like an impossible task, but it is only impossible if you don't try.

Perseverance: Leaders who show resolve and inspire others must also be prepared to sustain for the long haul. Webster's Dictionary defines perseverance as achieving something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. At times, it appears we have lost our will to "punch" through the minutia or bureaucracy to get the mission done. There will always be rocks in the middle of the path, but how we react to those rocks, highlights our leadership capabilities. Our thirtieth President, Calvin Coolidge, said, "Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." Don't be afraid to fail, but don't quit if you fail the first time. Build perseverance into your mind set. Make it part of your mental toughness and step out to achieve success.

George Washington Carver once said, "When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world." He was a leader who clearly demonstrated RIP in all facets of life. He was born into slavery, but rose above that inhuman convention to become one of the foremost scientists and inventors of his generation. He did not accept no, he maintained his motivation, and doggedly pursued his goals. You can analyze sports heroes or historical leaders, discuss their philosophies, and secrets for success, but you will find there is no magic formula for success....what you need is to RIP into the mission.