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Leadership is a choice

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Master Sgt. George Lanstrum (left), 21st Security Forces Squadron superintendent of standard evaluation and training (left), and Senior Master Sgt. Nicole Lanstrum, Manager and Senior Intelligence Officer Staff at Headquarters Air Force Space Command, team- teach the “Leadership…It’s a Choice” course held in the First Term Airman’s Center March 4. The pair taught using their varied experiences by providing different leadership tools for students to use. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Master Sgt. George Lanstrum (left), 21st Security Forces Squadron superintendent of standard evaluation and training (left), and Senior Master Sgt. Nicole Lanstrum, Manager and Senior Intelligence Officer Staff at Headquarters Air Force Space Command, team- teach the “Leadership…It’s a Choice” course held in the First Term Airman’s Center March 4. The pair taught using their varied experiences by providing different leadership tools for students to use. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Leadership is not something one is promoted into, but rather, it is a choice according to the "Leadership...It's a Choice" course held in the First Term Airman's Center.

"There is no book definition of leadership," said Master Sgt. George Lanstrum, 21st Security Forces Squadron supervisor of standard evaluation and training. "As leaders you have to be flexible, you've got to be growing."

Lanstrum teaches the class with his wife Senior Master Sgt. Nicole Lanstrum, Manager and Senior Intelligence Officer Staff at Headquarters Air Force Space Command. The pair does the training as a team because their different personalities and styles reach a broader spectrum of students. It is their intent to provide various tools and have students make use of the resources that best meets their needs.

The primary message of the course is that leaders need to exhibit professionalism and be adaptable to meet what challenges may come. To meet these ideas a leader must continue to grow in pursuit of improving leadership skills.

"Does the day ever come where a leader can't improve?" George asked. "No. You must always grow."

There are natural born leaders, but for the most part leadership requires some cultivation, he said. Leaders should be developed slowly, setting them up for success by providing the tools and resources needed to succeed. Leaders are usually people with a proper attitude who are worth the time, energy and effort needed to develop them properly.

A proper attitude for potential, and existing, leaders include a few things. Four of the primary qualities exhibited by leaders are a positive attitude, exercising values, character and credibility.

"Charisma can play into it, but what do you do with it? People have a lot of strengths and weaknesses so they need to use the strengths and work on the challenges," Nicole said.

One's character shows when he or she gets power, and the Lanstrums recommend caution in this area.

"Don't get crazy on power. Watch yourself and check yourself," George offered.

Leading by example and maintaining standards is one way to succeed in leadership Nicole said. A leader leads by example whether it is intended or not. Finding a mentor or someone who influenced you can help provide perspective and possible solutions to situations leaders might come across in their responsibilities.

"Have someone outside (of your particular job) to talk with," Nicole said. "That's important."

There is a difference between being a boss and being a leader, the pair admitted, but there are situations when switching between those roles is necessary.

"You need to know when to be that direct leader, it's not always hugs and lollipops," Nicole said. "You need to be both."

In the Air Force there are numerous leadership roles, such as trainer, counselor and manager to name a few. A typical NCO will fill all of them so the Lanstrums suggest working to constantly improve those skills, capitalizing on strengths and working on weaknesses.

"There is not one style," Nicole added. "We all value different things."

Holding onto basics and enforcing standards can prevent trouble later on, Nicole said. The responsibility of a leader is to provide tools and point out problems before they escalate.

"Set a culture and be involved with it," George said. "Be a leader and correct when needed."

Simply put, leaders should pay attention to and take care of their people. Using skills, abilities and strengths with those you lead is beneficial to all involved.

"Know your stuff, not just for you, but know it for your people," George said.

Showing concern, from a leadership standpoint is important. One way to do that is through feedback. Other ways are by getting out from behind the desk and getting to know those you lead, not tolerating laziness, not taking things for granted and being honest.

"Pass on your knowledge," George said.

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