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NEWS | March 15, 2018

Commentary: Lead with L.O.V.E. to gain success

By Air Force Master Sgt. James Davis 326th Training Squadron, "Airmen's Week"

Love is arguably the most powerful emotion on this earth.

The thought is that if you love something you will treat it better. Imagine feeling loved by family and friends, now take that and apply it to your branch of service.

Mine is the United States Air Force; I love the U.S. Air Force so dearly in many ways. One is that a young captain’s hands were the first hands to welcome me to this earth, at birth on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

The U.S. Air Force means so much to me. While talking to some of my fellow Airmen about this article, we collaborated on ideas about an approach of understanding, they said “Let’s break it down into an acronym.” I was immediately excited and began to take notes.

The L is very strong in its place and encourages an invitation to lead into this idea. L stands for “Loyalty” and with loyalty comes many things that are very valuable to our great military.

Think for a moment about someone or something that is loyal to you. Now with that thought, imagine how we can work on immersing our teams with an influential level of loyalty. This must come from the top and bottom on all levels of a team.

As an individual, when I feel my leaders and subordinates are loyal to the team, my 100 percent comes faithfully with no resistance. This emotion is so enduring that I will maximize all opportunities for the team’s success.

This clearly leads us into the O which is “Opportunity.” A great Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force once told me in a speech that all he can give us is an opportunity and the tools; what we do with it is up to us.

My feeling on that is how do we inspire our teams to achieve their max potential? We do this through love for each other, our team, our military, and most importantly, our nation. We generally get five to 10 opportunities a day that we can take full advantage of, but we often rationalize to procrastinate our future.

Rationalizing is a daily part of human nature. The key is to not procrastinate but rather to find a reason why we benefit from the opportunity. This is true power because once you see the reason will benefit your team, you will naturally accomplish it. This creates clear value in our mission.

One of the most important things in life is values or what we “Value,” which is the V. My belief is you will care for something you value. I believe oftentimes we verbally state our values and then struggle with committing to our thoughts. This is easily reaffirmed through loyalty to each other with love.

I trust in my team to commit to and through the ultimate sacrifice on completing the mission with success. The word value is easily watered down in today’s view, but we have an opportunity to and must revive it in our young military members. Let’s invigorate this to and through them with excellence.

It is easy to commit to the E, if we envelop the first three into “Excellence.” Often we think our effort is excellent, but are we really committed to this highest of standards or is it only above standards with which we have grown comfortable? A lot of us put extreme efforts into achieving the highest level of success.

We can duplicate this with our team if we encase all of the four ideas into our mission completely. At this point, we really need to think about the future of our military and how we can individually impact it.

When a high-level leader communicates with me on the future, one-on-one or in a small group, I get fired up, especially if they state that I have done a good job.

My first thought is how I can turn that into a great job! You can easily reward your team with a good job if warranted. This only costs seconds of our time but the impact is enduring for the team.

This brings us into two very different types of leadership styles, coercive power and referent power. Both are needed but the question is to what extent?

I look at life from both extremes often and what feels most comfortable causing my reactions.

When I think of coercive leadership, what comes to mind is making the team meet standards. Frequently, your team will only meet that standard or fall short possibly from low morale. When I have used this style in the past, the team was in some type of trouble or would not perform.

Choosing referent power is very effective in regards to team unity. A team that has high morale and love for their profession will meet your highest standards; pretty much, your limit as the leader will be the team’s desire.

As a career defender, I look at the team like this: will the team follow me into a firefight? When we get there, will they fight? A coercive team just might not fight to save you or the team. Referent teams will more than likely not just fight to save everyone but also hold the ground just because they need to bring a wounded member out.

Leaders, this is done through love. When you start to lead with love, it changes the domain of success.

I will leave you with this. In my nnit there is a great deal of L.O.V.E., from the top to the bottom. There are constant changes on the field of operations, and we rapidly adapt to these changes with fluidity. This leads the team into great success.

I challenge all the teams out there to lead with L.O.V.E.