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Success so much more than three words

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. David Gouin
  • 51st Operations Group superintendent
Gen. Douglas MacArthur once said, "Duty, Honor, Country ... those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be."

We in the United States Air Force live these three words and have a heritage that depends on the exceptional contributions of Airmen to shape and influence both today's force, as well as tomorrow's Airmen. Over the course of a career, I have met many extraordinary and wise commanders, most of whom are household names in past and present Air Force history: Gen. John P. Jumper, Gen. Michael Ryan, Gen. Charles Wald and Lt. Gen. Roger Brady ... to name just a few. These leaders have made a great impact on me, beginning as the most junior of Airmen to the seasoned chief master sergeant I am today.

Through the years, they shared leadership traits, characteristics and styles, and taught me that actions speak louder than words. These have become valuable tools in "my tool box." Allow me to share with you some of these priceless words of wisdom.

Gen. Louis L. Wilson Jr., a former PACAF commander, said to Airmen: Be tough when it comes to setting high standards and insisting that people measure up to them; get out from behind your desk and see what's going on within your work centers and with your people; search out problems within your organization and encourage others to do the same; find the critical path to success by getting personally involved on priority issues within your organization; be sensitive -- listen to your people; don't take things for granted -- regularly monitor your processes; don't alibi or be defensive about things that are wrong; don't procrastinate making hard decisions; don't tolerate incompetence and be honest.

Lt. Gen. Nicholas Kehoe, a former Air Force inspector general, provided these lessons: Be in charge -- lead; stress teamwork; be a teacher; integrity -- real simple, tell it like it is; discipline -- live by the rules and make sure others do too; know what it means to be accountable; keep your finger on the pulse of your organization and people; the only secret to success is hard work, common sense and a brand of leadership that stimulates our Airmen; believe these and focus on the right sight picture.

Coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Success rests not only on commitment, but integrity, loyalty and pride." And a wise chief many years ago advised, "Make every day an inspection day." I've found enormous success in living these philosophies.

Another wise commander shared a philosophy that had been shared with him called "How to Keep Your Boss Happy": Give straight answers; three things to do with an instruction -- follow it, get a waiver approved or change it ... nothing else is acceptable; understand your tasking and what the end product should look like; don't let your boss be surprised because you have failed to keep him or her informed; never tamper with the truth; always be positive in all that you do; don't hide problems; be innovative -- don't be afraid to take chances; meet suspenses -- it's important to get things done on time; and always remember ... mission first, people always.

These hints have worked for me and I'm sure they will work for today's generation of CEOs (civilians, enlisted and officers). As you can see, success is so much more than just three words ... Duty, Honor, Country.