RAF Alconbury --
Leadership is a quintessential part of military life. It is required at every level within the Air Force, but it is especially essential at the NCO, SNCO, and CGO levels. These leaders have the tremendous responsibility of caring for their personnel’s needs and development to ultimately ensure mission success. Furthermore, some of these missions are truly life and death endeavors. However, one does not just become a member of one of these groups. Assuming a formal leadership role within a unit is a culminating point that is a result of training and trials and tribulations the member endured throughout their career thereby shaping ones thinking and leadership philosophy. Each leader must develop their own unique leadership philosophy as everyone is different, and there is rarely one way to handle a situation. The philosophy is shaped by a variety of theories, principles, and experiences, but a leader should always learn from fellow leaders and continuously analyze and adapt their own philosophy. My philosophy was shaped by years of experiences in a variety of assignments, deployments, and interactions with amazing supervisors and not so great ones. Ultimately, it hinges on two main tenants: taking care of Airmen in all aspects and the importance of relationships.
As a Security Forces officer, I lead a special breed of Airmen: Defenders. These phenomenal Airmen must run to danger when needed. Therefore, they must take care of each other as a family would, and they must know their family members will always have their back. However, this attitude should apply to all Airmen regardless of AFSC as one never knows what situation he or she will encounter. This sense of family, camaraderie, and taking care of each other starts with training together. People rarely rise to the occasion; instead, they typically fall to their level of training. I have personally seen Airmen freeze because of inadequate training. Conversely, I have seen Airmen perform exactly as their trainers and peers had taught, protecting their brothers and sisters in arms, and the Airmen could not recall their actions after the event. That is the muscle memory and camaraderie training builds. Thus, the leadership team, from the NCOs to the commander, must set an environment where Airmen are receiving the joint training and skills that will prepare them for any situation.
Taking care of Airmen also entails establishing the right attitude and environment within a leader’s area of responsibility. Leaders must ensure they consistently impart an attitude of perpetual optimism. Generally speaking, we cannot control what happens to us on a daily basis. We cannot control real-world events, exercises, or inspections that we must address. However, people can control their attitude. With a positive attitude, Airmen will overcome any obstacle placed in front of them. Additionally, it is important for leaders to foster a culture of continuous improvement, build a warrior spirit, and consistently fight to obtain proper equipment and resources for all Airmen. Taking care of Airmen also involves consistent feedback and discipline for the greater good of the command and the mission. With all of these elements combined, Airmen will be taken care of so they can take care of the mission. Relationships also play a significant role in my leadership philosophy. This involves developing relationships inside and outside of the unit. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the crucial importance of relationships. However, Airmen are more likely to excel and go above and beyond for a leader they know and respect rather than one that just relies on their inherit authority. Consequently, a leader must be visible to develop those relationships and trust with the Airmen. Leaders must make it a priority to routinely visit each flight and section. These are not just inspections, but rather, they are visits where he or she continues to understand their Airmen while using it as an opportunity to articulate ideas, visions, goals, and priorities. This especially applies to the SNCOs and NCOs as these unit leaders run the squadron on a daily basis advancing the unit’s vision. Additionally, leaders have to establish and foster relationships with their fellow leaders and others on base that may be helpful to the mission. Good relationships lead to effective communication, increased collaboration, and ultimately to increased creative capabilities and the ability to solve any problem. A leader cannot do everything on their own. Instead, he or she must foster excellent relationships which can be leveraged to help their Airmen and the mission. A leader can also learn valuable lessons and obtain advice from other leaders.
Leadership philosophies are a result of years of experiences coupled with professional military education. The tenants of a leader’s philosophy are shaped by a multitude of mentors, advisors, previous leaders, and peers throughout the years. These beliefs and theories ultimately combine into what it means to be a leader and how to lead teams through crises to accomplish the mission. However, the philosophy should never be static. Instead, it should be a constantly evolving set of ideas that change based on additional experiences. These include further situations a leader goes through and lessons learned from other leaders. A leader should continue to shape his or her philosophy based on additional information, resources, and societal changes. One must constantly be in a state of learning.