Leading Your Peers: Easy or Hard?

February 18, 2013
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By Cadet Aaron Lewis

Air Force ROTC is an interesting experience. You go in as an AS100, knowing nothing, following every order given to you and not giving much thought as to why you’re doing it. Then along comes your AS200 year and all of a sudden you’re expected not only to follow, as you did during your first year, but now you are put in increasing leadership roles, and it’s your peers who must follow your orders. The same people you go to school with and hold the same rank as yourself, are now expected to carry out your commands. Is it difficult? Is it hard to lead your peers?

When I was at Field Training, my very first leadership role was Squadron Commander at JFTC. It was my duty to lead a group of about 50 cadets in order to carry out the duties of the day. Prior to my appointment to this position, our Squadron was late on just about every suspense. We were running into tents, and calling the wrong commands. Once I was in charge, not only were we arriving at our destinations earlier, we were one of the best performing squadrons. At this point in the story, I would say that it is very easy to lead your peers, but the story isn’t over yet.

It was later that we had what you call a “hot seat” exercise. Telling everyone in the flight what we didn’t like about each other. What was the biggest complaint about me? I was told that I was giving commands in the same manner as would a CTA. We were accomplishing our mission, yes. But I had lost the respect of my flight in the process. Things changed after that and CTA Lewis never came out again to lead the flight, and we still made every suspense.

Now back to the original question, is it easy or hard to lead your peers? In my opinion, it is easier to direct your peers than to lead them. Leadership requires respect and the ability to connect with those under you and give them a purpose for carrying out a mission. Anyone can bark out orders and get things done, but it takes a true leader to do it without losing the respect of those around you. Once you are able to make that connection and give that purpose, leading your peers, is a piece of cake.

Cake, now there’s something that would have been nice at Field Training!

pic-2-r6mC/Aaron Lewis

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