McLaughlin Air National Guard Base, W.Va. --
October, that dark and haunting time of year when we observe Halloween, with all of the ghostly, terrifying fun that it brings. Children and adults alike will be telling tales of specters, decorating their homes with ghostly images, and wearing costumes straight out of a nightmare. Ever since I was a child I’ve always enjoyed this time of year; the trick-or-treating, costumes, scary movies, and haunted houses that make the blood run cold and shivers cross your spine.
This year I will be out looking for spirits and ghosts here on our base, but I’m not talking about the weird sounds and voices we hear in the warehouse at night.
One of the fourteen different definitions of the word “Spirit” listed in Webster’s is as follows: “An animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms”. Religion and leadership author Paul Manwaring states that, “The spirit of an organization is the “Why?” of the organization. In other words, it is the mission. The very reason it or we exist or are alive.”
What is the spirit of our organization, from the wing down to the flight and shop level? If it’s not the mission, then our spirit is broken. With all of the day to day “noise” that we encounter, are we focused on the mission? The bigger question is, are our troops? We as leaders, whether official or unofficial, need to ensure that the spirit of our organization is dedicated to accomplishing the mission. We must engrain that into all of our people at all levels. If you lose focus of the mission, you lose the spirit of the organization.
Ghosts haunt our organizations every day.
Now, I’m not talking about the paranormal kind that float around in a haunted house and show up as a blur on the camera. I’m talking about individuals and practices from the past that influence our actions and decisions today, whether realized or not. The ghosts can be good or bad, and it is up to us to take the good and keep it going, or banish the bad ghosts to the past. Many of the things we do, the actions we take, and the attitudes we present unconsciously come from our past leaders and mentors.
Our work ethic, mission focus, loyalty, and organizational culture is heavily influenced from what we have seen and experienced coming up in the organization.
My question is, how are we going to haunt the organization in the future? Are we going to be the good ghosts that live on in the troops we are leading and mentoring? Are we sowing the seeds of duty, respect, and honor? Is our influence going to be one of dedication to the mission? Or are we going to be a hindrance to the future of our organization with selfish attitudes and actions, as we unwittingly pass them down to our future leaders?
As much as the DNA of our ancestors define the people that we are today, our actions and attitudes will define our organization in the future. One of our greatest responsibilities as leaders at every level is to ensure that the future of our organization, from shop to wing and beyond, is full of the spirit of duty, respect and honor, and is haunted by a history of pride, dedication and success.