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Chaplain discusses the real strength of a leader

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Chaplain (Col.) Jay Johns III, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command chaplain addresses the audience during the National Prayer Luncheon at the Peterson Club on March 18. His topic for the event was “Real Strength of a Strong Leader.” (U.S. Air Force photo, Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Chaplain (Col.) Jay Johns III, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command chaplain addresses the audience during the National Prayer Luncheon at the Peterson Club on March 18. His topic for the event was “Real Strength of a Strong Leader.” (U.S. Air Force photo, Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- "Leadership is not about position, it's about influence," said Chaplain (Col.) Jay Johns III, NORAD/NORTHCOM command chaplain. Johns was the featured speaker at the National Prayer luncheon March 18, hosted by the 21st Space Wing Chapel.

His topic, "The Real Strength of Strong Leaders," was based on a Bible passage from Philippians chapter 2 verses 3-4: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

"The real strength of a strong leader is their ability to add value to the people with whom they interact," said Johns. Good leaders are sure of themselves, internally motivated and internally validated, but they do not strut around for others to notice. They focus on things bigger than themselves.

"Strong leaders simply do great work. They seek the success of their organization and their people," he said. They can be tough, but never cruel nor abusive.

Authentic leaders lead from a position of strength and security, but are unconcerned about their own fame and can enjoy the successes of others. The military rewards people who are driven and strive for success, but they do not have to crush others to feel powerful, Johns said. Rather, strong leaders lift those they influence along with them.

"How do you get to the point of strong leadership?" Johns asked.

"You can't give what you don't have," he said. Strong leaders stand on solid ground and know the people around them matter. They need to be rock steady.

Johns suggested leaders be as called to what they are doing as he is to being a chaplain. That is the level of commitment needed for a leader to rise up to a new level of leadership.

He offered five items as takeaways, things to help in becoming a top-notch leader.

1. Enter a room looking to add value to others. Focus on what you can give others rather than what they can give you. He said one should walk into a room believing they have something to offer others.

2. As you walk around greet people with a smile and make eye contact. Notice others and be approachable. Set the climate that other people matter.

3. Listen to those you lead. You can learn something from everyone you encounter.

4. Don't believe you have to be perfect or flawless to lead. Allow yourself to be human. Life can be brutal, but you have to drive on because there's a mission to be done, he said.

5. Invest in what will matter after your Department of Defense time. Be careful to invest consistently in what happens after your service.

To firm up his thought that leadership is more than position alone, Johns shared a quote from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:

"Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."

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