Believe in what you do

  • Published
  • By Col. Steve Gallegos
  • 51st Maintenance Group commander
Throughout my career, I've witnessed firsthand the leadership of great military men and women. That knowledge, combined with my historical study of leadership, has given me insight into both the tangible effects of leaders and, more importantly, what motivates leaders.

What is it that inspires or drives a person to lead men and women into the hazards of war? What is it that inspires others to follow?

During the civil war, what enabled Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain to inspire his 20th Maine regiment to charge down Little Round Top, bayonets fixed, and nearly out of ammunition? Most would say courage, but it is more than that.

Webster defines courage as the "ability to conquer fear and despair." The drive that I am referring to has the ability to inspire each of us to do great things. That drive is the deep belief in what we do.

Studying past and present leaders and leadership in general has always intrigued me. Our profession, the profession of arms, is predicated on the historical study of leadership. Attempting to understand leaders such as Fredrick the Great, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Douglas MacArthur and their commonalties, making each of them successful in war and in history alike, can only expand our purview.
In an article entitled, "Military History and the Modern Soldier" the author, David B. Hawke, states, "In the study of history, there can be clues and even limited answers, but mostly, it teaches one how to think and consider all the variables." I have drawn the same conclusion from my study of leadership. But of the many variables in successful leadership, the most common from my studies appears to be the leader's belief in what they were doing.

The study of leadership tells us that leaders lead from the front. A leader must know their people, their strengths and weaknesses both physically and mentally. A leader must know how far they can take their people when to slow down when to speed up. A leader must have a mission, a vision and goals. A good leader must be ethical, moral, competent, enthusiastic and have the ability to inspire those around them. AF Doctrine Document 1-1, 8 November 2011, gives many examples of leadership principles. Is this doctrine all encompassing? No. Recipes for successful leadership are as diverse as the individuals and their circumstances, making it impossible for anyone to know everything on the subject.

So what's my point? Chamberlain knew that the U. S. not only embodied humanities greatest ideals, but that the success at Little Round Top was pivotal to the continued existence of the our great nation. He had a deep belief in what he was doing. For myself, there is nothing more inspiring than someone who, for the betterment of mankind, believes in what they are doing. Our great Air Force community is a prime example. Look at the contractors, government employees, military personnel and volunteers enthusiastically supporting our great nation everyday. Despite cutbacks in personnel and budget, our Air Force continues to be the greatest Air Force this world has ever known. Why is that? Because of the many people who truly believe in what they do.