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Attitude, Initiative and Effort

Posted 2/19/2013   Updated 2/19/2013 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Maj. Marc Vassallo
7th Component Maintenance Squadron

2/19/2013 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- I didn't give it much thought when I was asked, as a new second lieutenant, to give a speech for a graduating maintenance tech school class. As a prior-service crew chief, I didn't have to give too many speeches, but I figured I knew maintenance pretty well, so it wouldn't be a problem.

About three days before the event, my confidence began to wane. I couldn't come up with anything to talk about. So I did what every smart lieutenant should do, I found a chief to ask for some advice.

The chief's advice was short but clear. He said I should pick three traits I thought were important to becoming a maintainer, talk a minute or two on each, thank them for their service and get off the stage. So I went home and started to put pen to paper and it occurred to me, I still needed to come up with those three traits.

Well, I can't quite remember what those traits were back then, but I can tell you that they continued to evolve throughout my career. As my scope of responsibility changed, so did those three traits.

It wasn't until I was on my deployment to Afghanistan in 2011 that the three traits had evolved into the ones I use today.

I have made it my goal to integrate these traits into 7th Component Maintenance Squadron Raptors' culture. Traits I am confident will lead me and my 7th CMS Raptor team to success. Traits that have been an enduring part of my life and will lead to success in any unit, and in any situation.

These three traits are: attitude, initiative and effort.

Everybody knows them. It's the Airman who comes into work and complains about the traffic, then complains about getting out their tools, then is trying to tell everyone why their flight chief and the commander are making ridiculous policies. Like the plague, this negative attitude is transmitted from host to host through the words and actions of this bearer of poor attitude. If left unchecked, negative attitude will continue to spread throughout your organization until the mission suffers or someone gets hurt.

Similarly, when someone walks into your work center with a positive attitude, it is also infectious. It spreads from person to person, putting more and more members in a good mood.

I have seen it as a recurring theme throughout my career. A team where just one member has a positive attitude becomes a team with all positive attitudes. No matter what the rank of this informal leader, they influence their subordinates, peers and leaders. Their team becomes more productive and Airmen start to enjoy coming to work.

Positive attitude is the most important trait I look for in my Raptor team. It's a force multiplier, which is why it sits as the lead for the other two traits.

Close behind is initiative, which is also essential for a successful organization. An organization that is operated superbly in the status quo is an organization that is moving backwards.

By my emphasis above, you might think an organization with an outstandingly positive attitude would inherently do well. However, it cannot succeed without initiative.

As money gets tight, as technologies advance, as the mission changes, members have to continue to take the initiative to get the job done. It's easy to get into that rut where you do the same things, over and over again because you are good at those things and feel comfortable.

Unfortunately, you're comfortably moving into the Stone Age. The Air Force is the most educated service in the world for a good reason. Remember, "A body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion tends to stay at motion," Isaac Newton once said.

Finally, for all the physics enthusiasts out there, Newton talks about this "force" thing. Once someone initiates something, is there enough force behind it to keep it going? Does your idea move an inch or a mile?

We all know that guy. He is the "good idea" guy. He comes up with weapons bays full of good idea bombs, but never puts any effort behind them. He expects someone else to do that.

There are times were you might get to start the stone rolling down the hill, but from my experience, more often the finish line is at the top of the hill and the boulder is square. Without continuous effort, your initiatives will quickly fizzle out. Without continuous effort, your positive attitude will slowly regress.

Are these three traits I use in my leadership philosophy the answer to all organization's problems? Probably not. However, I do believe they are foundational, and when used in conjunction with the Air Force core values, I am confident they will lead to improvement in any organization.

So I am taking this opportunity to pay it forward.

I want to thank the chief who sparked my philosophy and all chiefs along the way for their mentorship.

I also want to pass on to all who read this to take a good hard look at your own leadership philosophy and develop what works for you. Remember, plagiarism is the greatest form of flattery.

So when you go to work tomorrow, try and have a little more positive attitude and see if you can infect someone.

Initiate your own idea or process to keep your organization moving forward. And most of all, put effort behind everything you do. Thank you all for your service to our great nation. And in the words of our wing commander and command chief "Go Lead!"

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