Commentary

December 6, 2013

SLAP your Airmen daily

Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Arnold
65th Mission Support Group superintendent

LAJES FIELD, Azores – Have you ever wanted to SLAP your Airmen? Have you ever wanted to SLAP them in hopes of teaching them a lesson? Have you ever wanted to SLAP them, but feared going to jail? If you answered yes to one or all of these questions, here is a way to accomplish it, legally.

A good hard SLAP to your Airman’s face will go a long way for a supervisor and the member and will ensure the Air Force is in good hands. Understanding the concept of a strong SLAP will cement an understanding of expectations and create an environment of good order and discipline. If you SLAP your Airmen often, they will gain a level of knowledge and confidence that will ensure they in turn SLAP their Airmen allowing this behavior to be passed down from generation to generation. Of course, I am not talking about physically slapping individuals; rather, a proverbial SLAP of standards, leadership, accountability, and professionalism.

The first step in a forceful SLAP is to hit your Airmen with standards. This sets the tone for how members carry out the Air Force’s mission and vision. Establishing standards provides a clear boundary of acceptable and unacceptable actions and should leave no question in your Airman’s mind of what is expected. Setting standards is the inaugural action of effective leadership and if not accomplished immediately, can cause a break down in discipline. In our line of work, this cannot happen.

No doubt standards are needed to maintain a structured environment, but Airmen also need to be slapped with a dose of positive guidance to ensure those standards are met. In order for your Airmen to feelthe sting of the SLAP, you need to hit them hard with leadership. Leading by example is unequivocally the most important aspect of strong leadership. The best leaders will lead with their actions as well as their words. Actions themselves can set a silent standard about what is right and what is wrong; understanding that followers learn from observation is key to effective leadership.

For example, a leader can knowingly or unknowingly set the expectation for a uniform standard by consistently wearing ribbons when it’s not required. Airmen will watch, learn and imitate what leaders do. It’s vitally important that we are continuously aware of our own actions on and off duty.

It has been said that great leaders SLAP their Airmen daily, but this cannot be done properly unless accountability is in place. Why waste time slapping your Airmen with standards if you are aren’t going to follow it up with accountability. Holding members accountable for their actions secures an Airman’s understanding of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and allows them to make necessary changes if needed. However, it is important to understand that in order to hold someone accountable leaders may need to reflect on their own accountability as well. This means if the duty day starts at 7:30 a.m., supervisors also need to be on time to ensure the standard is being met. If you can’t observe the behavior yourself, how can you hold someone accountable?

Hitting individuals with standards, leadership and accountability will instill the final step to an effective SLAP: professionalism. The way in which one acts and presents themselves can create lasting impressions impacting those we lead. Airmen of all ranks need to understand that we are all servants responsible for the defense of our nation. When Airmen have high standards of professionalism, it creates a perception of credibility and reliability and this, in itself, is what continues to makes us theā€ No. 1 Air Force in the world.




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