July 20, 2012

Chief’s Perspective: Analog leadership in digital times

by Chief Master Sgt. James A. Roy
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force

The United States Air Force is the world’s most advanced air, space and cyberspace force. Most of that can be attributed to you – our outstanding Airmen – but technology also plays a huge role. Advanced tools help us maintain an advantage over our adversaries. Technology has enabled our continuing success.

However, technology also threatens to cripple us.

As electronic communication becomes more widely used, our face-to-face interaction skills are beginning to suffer. We know how to text, Skype, and FaceTime, but some of us seem reluctant to engage in a meaningful face-to-face conversation.

We value technology because it saves us time, provides conveniences and helps us to be more efficient. But we must also recognize its potential to strip us of critical human connection skills.

This high-tech challenge has a low-tech solution. We need to strike a balance; we must continue to emphasize the importance of technology – a resource we cannot and will not stop exploiting – and at the same time emphasize the importance and value of analog leadership.

Analog leadership means temporarily putting down the iPads and Android tablets, logging out of Facebook and Twitter, and switching phones to airplane mode to stop the stream of texts coming in and out. It means shutting off the technology and talking to each other.

Face-to-face. One-on-one.

Real human interaction – yes, for some of us it may be awkward at first, but getting to know each other better is an investment that will yield incalculable returns. Stronger connections will create a foundation on which we can grow more meaningful relationships.

And then we can turn the devices back on and use them for their intended purpose: to augment and add value to our real-life relationships.

As Airmen, we have to understand how to use technology, because without it we are not as well equipped to do our jobs. However, as human beings, we also have to understand how and when not to use technology, because when distracted by it we are not as well equipped to relate to others.

Thank you for your service and your continued dedication to duty. I look forward to seeing you face-to-face as I travel around our great Air Force.

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