JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
As long as I could remember, my father would use analogies to help me understand how to deal with life challenges. As I reflect today, I can hear his voice whispering, “Friends are like slow-growing trees.”
At the time, I knew he was ensuring I understood how much time and energy went into building true friendships. As I get older, the meaning becomes clearer to me. This analogy has also benefitted my development of my leadership tree.
To have a strong tree, it needs to be properly nourished to grow. This happens by nurturing its branches, ensuring it has water and ample sunlight. Within my military career, I nurture my leadership skill set with five team leader concepts: self-awareness, values and principles, motivation, support, and a balanced life. These concepts help me ensure I am able to effectively take care of the mission as well as the people I lead.
As an enlisted professional military educator, I teach a concept termed “team leader.” A team leader guides the most productive teams by showing concern for both the mission and relationship built with their teammates, while at the same time fostering a team environment and encouraging them to reach goals.
In class I share my story of how growing up as a military brat of two Marine Corps parents developed my discipline and structure standards. The end result is that personal feelings are not considered when I complete mission requirements.
Just recently I realized my slow growing tree lacked the proper skill sets to turn a group into a team. It was clear just as strong trees need nurturing, sun, and water, my slow growing “leadership” tree needed the five team leader concepts. It was important for me to develop these leadership concepts to grow as a leader.
First, I had to apply self-awareness to know and understand my own strengths and weaknesses.
Second, I had to display high values and principles to uphold ethical standards.
Third, I had to personally to be motivated to motivate others.
Fourth, I had to be ready to receive support from family, friends, leaders, mentors, peers, and subordinates.
Lastly, I had to balance my life to have equal balance in my personal life and professional career.
As an instructor, my focus is teaching leadership concepts that help Airmen lead in our Air Force. It’s important I know how to nourish my own tree before I can teach someone how to grow their own.
Understanding this realization is a lesson in itself. It taught me being a team leader is a lot of work and needs to be managed properly with the five team leader concepts. It also taught me that personal values, life lessons and your parent's words all stay with you. We can use our experiences to guide us through personal and professional situations.
Applying my dad’s analogy to my current situation did not diminish his intent but refined my perspective. I learned that leadership is like a slow growing tree, and when properly nourished can create a strong and effective leader.