Leadership is not convenient: Part I

  • Published
  • By Courtesy of 86th Mission Support Squadron
  • 86th Mission Support Squadron
Being a leader in today's Air Force is not an easy task. The multi-talented requirements have taken a new meaning due to high operations tempo, longer deployments and manning cuts. We are still committed to doing the same job we did 10 years ago with half the personnel.

Programs like AFSO 21 and other new technology have given way to reduced manning slots and unique cross-utilization training opportunities. To be an effective leader and to accomplish today's multi-faceted mission means adapting to the new Air Force way of life.

To accomplish this goal, a leader must show total support for all programs. This doesn't mean support a program only when it's convenient, it means support it all the time. If you don't give 100 percent, then you send mixed signals to your personnel that this type of leadership is acceptable when it's not. How can you expect your subordinates to offer complete support for our Air Force programs if you are not leading by example?

Over the past year, I've read many articles about leadership. Not too long ago one of these articles touched the very essence of leadership by defining "What is a leader?" Since I had just received a performance feedback from my supervisor that covered this very subject, I read the article thoroughly to see if I fit the profile of a good leader. At the very end of the article, the statement was made that being a leader is not always easy. I'd heard this before from my first sergeant who told me when I first took this superintendent position that leadership is not convenient.

This particular visit with the first sergeant was to discuss a problem I was having with a SNCO who was retiring in the next year and felt that the Air Force owed them for 25 years of service. This SNCO felt that they did not have to come to work and could start his retirement process one year early. Since I had just started my new position, I took the time to evaluate the circumstances and the actions of this SNCO. I quickly realized that this situation was detrimental to the morale and success of our mission. Consequently, I ended up in the first sergeant's office asking for some advice on how to best handle the situation.

After some encouraging words and a brief story on how leadership is not convenient, I returned to work ready to face a very difficult counseling session with this SNCO. I tried to explain to this individual how they had failed in his responsibilities as a supervisor, leader and mentor and how I needed him to set the example. Furthermore, I discussed suggestions on how he could repair the damage he had already achieved and the steps needed for him to become a productive member of the team. But my efforts were in vain and this SNCO retired with a severe dislike for the Air Force and no retirement ceremony. I left work that day with a heavy heart and a knot in my stomach. At first, I felt like I had failed in my duties as a leader since I was unable to get this individual to accept the Air Force core values and live up to his SNCO responsibilities. However, I realized I had done my best to rehabilitate this Airman and the Air Force was going to be better off when he retired.

Too many times we as leaders chose to look the other way because we don't want a confrontation. The easy path for me would have been to write this SNCO off and let himcontinue to skate into retirement. But at what cost would this have been to me as a leader? (Courtesy 0f 86th Mission Support Squadron)