Focus, discipline, caring key assets to success

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The demands of serving in today's Air Force are great. High operations tempo, limited resources, fewer people, and multiple AEF deployments challenge us to be at our very best.

When I was asked to provide a leadership perspective, I reflected not only on a few great leadership books I've read, but more so on leadership lessons that have come from watching people perform at all levels and in all ranks.

What has motivated me for 21 years and continues to amaze me are the commitments, sacrifices, and the results our people produce. While a lot has changed over the years, I have found three simple words that are common with successful leaders and organizations--focus, discipline, and caring.

Focus--Successful organizations have a clear vision, a sense of direction, a purpose and know how to communicate that into team success. They develop a comprehensive understanding of the wing, the units and its people. They teach unit leadership up and down the chain to communicate objectives in terms the youngest Airmen in any organization can understand.

This focus allows everyone in the organization to understand their role in the wing's mission and feel a part of the success. Strong leaders learn the second and third order effects of their operations on the wing's primary mission and never let anyone underestimate their individual impacts.

For example, imagine the maintenance troop working under extreme time constraints, trying to find time to visit the MPF for an entitlement issue. The lost duty time and frustration have a negative effect on flight-line productivity and safety. When outstanding service is provided and that negative effect is eliminated, lost duty time is saved, maintenance personnel remain focused, and sortie production is enhanced.

Establishing a clear focus and communicating it creates a unifying team effort. It turns vision into focused execution that involves and empowers a team to maximize capabilities.

Discipline: As stated, high operations tempo, limited resources, fewer people, and multiple AEF deployments demand we remain disciplined in the execution of our mission. Strong leaders insist on high standards, know where to draw the line and refuse to lower the bar, are honest in their feedback, empower their people to make decisions and look for ways to continuously improve.

Strong organizations master the fundamentals and build cultures that seek out positive change. They use performance metrics, unit compliance, operational readiness and squadron self-inspections as a mechanism for continuous improvement and to strengthen a winning foundation.

Winning is a total team effort, and daily discipline of mission execution is a responsibility everyone shares--true success belongs to those who execute the game plan everyday.

The best example of daily preparation seen is when a superintendent told his Airmen that success can be guaranteed if they commit to the following statements:

- I know what I am responsible for and will execute the steps needed to complete my tasks right and on time.
- I will track and measure my results.
- I identify improvement areas and get focused training to improve.
- I take great pride in knowing I did my job right and will help others do the same.

We all want to be winners. Great organizations capture that feeling, provide focus, and develop a climate that produces pride of ownership--it is the fuel that drives people to accomplish great things.

Caring--The most important ingredient in that fuel is caring. While commanders and supervisors may have a perfect game plan, great leaders realize it is the team on the playing field that executes and is ultimately responsible for the victory.

They learn how to marry up the needs of the organization with the professional and personal needs of their people. They will do everything possible to provide the right resources, training, recognition, and professional development for them to reach the next level.

This creates and builds upon a culture of winning and keeps an organization strong over the long term. Most importantly, their examples teach others how to become great leaders.

Challenges are a part of military service. What we do is not easy and requires our very best on a daily basis. It requires strong leadership and a total team effort. It begins and ends with people and our mission unites us with one common goal. Focus, Discipline, and Caring--three simple words to keep a team strong.