Strengthening the team

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Troy C. Austin
  • 86th Security Forces Squadron
The Air Force has provided mission, vision and priorities. Transforming vision into executable policy requires charismatic, energetic, inspirational yet humble leaders focused on Airmen and the mission. It is important to remember that being a leader is not tied to rank or position and it's not about rewards. Leadership is about taking care of the people who complete the mission.

Fact is, if you were lucky, someone in your life or your career took you by the hand or the scruff of the neck and showed you how to succeed; they showed you how to win. My mentors showed me one of the keys is to be available for your Airmen and not just on Facebook, Twitter or instant messenger. Airmen must know and believe that, if they have a problem, you are there for them; look them in the eyes and let them know you care. Just as important, give them accurate, honest feedback -- the good and the bad.

Warren G. Bennis, Ph.D, the founding chair of the leadership institute, said, "The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born (and) there is a genetic factor to leadership."

This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense. In fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.

This quote is personal to me. Early on in my career I was lucky enough to work for retired Col. William "Wild Bill" Renfroe. He was a constant throughout my career and quick to tell others what right looked like. Even though I wasn't born a leader, he was a mentor in a long line of many who held the hammer and chisels to smooth out the rough edges to help make me the leader I am today.

As leaders we must forge our replacements and prepare them for the operational environment. Most of us have benefited from mentors throughout our lives. We owe Airmen our "been there, done that" expertise. We need to teach them the "smart Airman, wise Airman" concept. Simply put, a smart Airman learns from his or her mistakes, but a wise Airman learns from the smart Airman's mistakes. We owe it to our Air Force to train wise Airmen, helping them avoid pitfalls and bad decisions.

Nobody ever said leadership is easy; it is a challenge that goes beyond mentoring. It requires the ability to form consensus, build teams and pave the way for cooperation.

To get there, we need to strengthen our team with boots on the ground and honest, accurate feedback and guidance. This has to take place every day. There is no on and off switch. It is not
event driven, and it is not done in turns.

For those of us in the 1 percent who joined to serve this great nation, we clearly have answered a higher calling, and that higher calling demands higher standards. When all is said and done, leaders are not measured by individual accomplishments, but by their character and commitment to the Airmen they serve.