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The vision of leadership: developing future leaders, not attracting followers

By Senior Master Sgt. John J. Chacon, JBSA Airman Leadership School commandant | May 16, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

When asked why it’s important as a leader to motivate and persuade your troops to follow you, I immediately think of mission and vision. It’s easy to see why this is important, because everything we do as military leaders involves the safety and security of our nation.


While each leader has their own way of portraying their organization’s vision, my advice to future leaders is to have F-A-I-T-H in their vision of mission completion. I have learned my fair share of acronyms after 21 years of military service, but none is more important than F-A-I-T-H; Family, Attitude, Influence, Trust, & Humility.


Family.  First and foremost, family is the most important thing to all of us. If a leader can create a family environment in their work centers, that will establish the building blocks for communication. We say we are brothers-and-sisters-in arms, and that family bond cannot be bought. That bond is something that can only be forged through time, communication and trust. If I call you brother or sister, it’s because you have earned my respect.


Attitude.  No matter what, a leader must always display a positive attitude.  Whether it is too hot or too cold, too dark or too bright, a leader cannot afford to let their people see them fold under pressure. Positive attitudes are contagious, unfortunately so are negative ones. A mentor, friend and brother once told me during a feedback session that I “cannot soar with the eagles if I am hanging around turkeys.”


Influence.  The first military definition of leadership is found in the 1948 Army Pamphlet 22-1 which states, “Leadership is the art of influencing human behavior through ability to directly influence people and direct them toward a specific goal." The word that stands out to me is influence.  Every great leader will tell you they were influenced by other great leaders. Leadership is an art because there is no leadership mold that every leader should strive to be. My leadership style is the culmination of my parents, teachers, coaches, supervisors, mentors, NCOs, SNCOs, Commanders, Chiefs and First Sergeants that have influenced me to be the best Wingman, Leader, and Warrior.


Trust.  Trust is the cornerstone of every relationship. Leaders and followers must trust in their relationship because it is vital to the mission. I have been fortunate to serve alongside heroes, and there is no greater trust than to trust others with your life during combat. In turn, they also knew I had their six, and our team could count on me to walk with them through some of the greatest risks in order to accomplish the mission at hand.


Humility.  Leaders must check their egos at the door. People love a leader that is confident; however, never get arrogant as you improve. Always give credit where credit is due and sometimes that won’t be you. Humility is one thing that cannot be faked. Leaders have the mentality that there is always room for improvement.


There are times when a leader must make difficult decisions that are unpopular, and that is when they must have F-A-I-T-H in their abilities and always keep the vision in sight. A true leader will tell you it’s important to develop our leaders and not become consumed by attracting followers. If you just want the job to get done in an organization, lead followers, but if you want explosive growth in an organization, develop leaders.  At the end of the day, warriors need to be led into battle by true leaders because only then can we soar to new heights in our mission to fly, fight and win!